In this issue:
NATION'S TOP SCIENTISTS AND INNOVATORS HONORED
President Obama recently named ten eminent researchers as recipients of the National Medal of Science, and three individuals and one team as recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honors bestowed by the United States government on scientists, engineers, and inventors. The recipients will receive their awards at a White House ceremony later this year. "The extraordinary accomplishments of these scientists, engineers, and inventors are a testament to American industry and ingenuity," President Obama said. "Their achievements have redrawn the frontiers of human knowledge while enhancing American prosperity, and it is my tremendous pleasure to honor them for their important contributions." The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the Medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. Nominees are selected by a committee of Presidential appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge in, and contributions to, the biological, behavioral/social, and physical sciences, as well as chemistry, engineering, computing, and mathematics. The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is an outgrowth of a 1980 statute and is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The award recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America's competitiveness and quality of life and have helped strengthen the Nation's technological workforce. Nominees are selected by a distinguished independent committee representing both the private and public sectors. The recipients of the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation are listed at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/10/15/president-obama-honors-nations-top-scientists-and-innovators **
PRESIDENT OBAMA HOSTS WHITE HOUSE SCIENCE FAIR
On October 18th, President Obama hosted the White House Science Fair celebrating the winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions, which included FIRST Robotics, Engineers Week Future City, and the Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) TEAMS competition. "If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you're a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too," the President said. The event was a part of the President's Educate to Innovate initiative, which ASME has supported since its inception.
At the White House Science Fair, President Obama viewed exhibits of winning student projects, ranging from breakthrough basic research to new inventions, and delivered remarks congratulating the winning students on their diligence, desire to tackle hard problems, and drive to invent and discover. The President also announced his personal appearance on the upcoming December 8, 2010 episode of Discovery Channel's MythBusters, a popular television show which uses science to determine the truth behind urban legends.
Additionally, the Administration and leading companies are taking further steps to advance STEM education, which include expanding the tools of invention so that more students can directly be the "makers of things." This includes efforts by DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), an agency that has supported key technological breakthroughs, to place 3D printers in 1000 schools; an initiative by Autodesk to make new easy-to-use design tools freely available to students; and a viral video competition by leading Fortune 500 companies to show the rewarding jobs students can get if they achieve in STEM.
For additional information on the White House Science Fair, including a list of the winning exhibits, please visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/10/18/president-obama-host-white-house-science-fair. The list of attendees may be viewed at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/10/18/background-white-house-science-fair
To watch a video of the President's remarks to the White House Science Fair, go to: http://blog.energy.gov/blog/2010/10/18/live-white-house-science-fair
The White House Science Fair kicked off a week that culminated with the USA Science and Engineering Festival on the National Mall and in 50 satellite locations this past weekend, and was poised to engage more than a million people nationwide. ASME and several other engineering societies had booths on the National Mall.
The Inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival, hosted by Lockheed Martin, is the country's first national science festival. For additional information on the Festival, its events and locations, visit: http://www.usasciencefestival.org/.
Melissa Carl covers public policy-related STEM education issues for ASME. She can be reached at: email@example.com *
"POST-PARTISAN POWER" CALLS FOR $25 BILLION ANNUAL INVESTMENT IN
A white paper released earlier this month by three think tanks representing the spectrum of American political thinking calls on Congress to look past the partisan divide over cap-and-trade, nuclear power and offshore drilling and instead to focus on the promotion of clean energy sources. "Post-Partisan Power," the result of a year-long dialogue among scholars at the conservative American Enterprise institute, the moderate Brookings Institution and the left-leaning Breakthrough Institute, advocates the investment of between $15 billion and $25 billion annually to increase funding for energy science and research, increased focus on public-private and university partnerships, and Defense Department testing of new energy technologies.
In its introduction, the white paper sets the stage for a reformed energy innovation system in this manner: "Arriving at a new post-partisan consensus will require liberals and conservatives, alike, to take a renewed look at key facts, which challenge some long-standing assumptions about energy. For liberals this means acknowledging that today's renewable energy technologies are, by and large, too expensive and difficult to scale to meet the energy needs of the nation, much less a rapidly growing global population. New mandates, carbon pricing systems such as cap and trade, and today's mess of subsidies are not going to deliver the kind of clean energy innovation required. And nuclear power, long reviled by many on the left, is far cleaner and safer than most liberals imagine, and holds enormous potential to displace low-cost but high-polluting coal power.
"For conservatives this means acknowledging that fossil fuels have serious health, safety, and security consequences aside from any risks global warming might pose. The biggest obstacle facing nuclear power is not environmental policy but rather public opposition, high construction costs, and associated financial risks. And while many faults can be found with ethanol and synfuels investments, the bulk of historic federal investments in energy technology - from hydro and nuclear to solar, wind, and electric vehicles - have been an overwhelming success."
This new system would be built on a four-part energy framework:
- Invest in energy science and education;
- Overhaul the energy innovation system;
- Reform energy subsidies and use military procurement and competitive deployment to drive Innovation and price declines; and,
- Internalize the cost of energy modernization and ensure investments do not add to the national debt.
To ensure that these limited, targeted new investments do not add to the federal deficit, the white paper proposes a number of options that Congress and the President could use to finance energy innovation, including: cutting existing energy subsidies; charging new royalties for oil drilling; small surcharges on oil imports or electricity sales; and, a very low carbon price.
Included in the paper's specific recommendations are the following:
- Secure funding necessary to complete the doubling of Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science budgets;
- Invest roughly $500 million annually to support K-12 curriculum and teacher training, energy education scholarships, post-doctoral fellowships, and graduate research grants;
- Bring the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) to scale by providing $1.5 billion annually, while dedicating a significant portion of new funding to dual-use energy technological innovations; and,
- Recognize the potential for nuclear power - particularly innovative, smaller reactor designs - to enhance American energy security, reduce pollution, and supply affordable power.
The full white paper may be reviewed at: http://www.collide-a-scape.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/white-paper.pdf
Robert Rains covers public policy-related energy issues for ASME. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org *
HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE HOLDS BRIEFING ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND THE
Outgoing Chairman of the House Science Energy and Environment Subcommittee Brian Baird (D-WA) and staff for both the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and the House Armed Services Committee teamed up in order to conduct a briefing this week on energy usage by the military, and collaborative efforts between the Departments of Energy and Defense to identify new technologies and reduce energy consumption.
Entitled "21st Century Energy Security: Leveraging Cutting Edge Research at the Departments of Energy and Defense," this was the third in a series of briefings held by the outgoing Subcommittee Chairman. This event was also attended by House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), who, along with Rep. Baird, will be retiring from public service at the conclusion of the 111th Session of Congress.
Speakers for this event included:
- Ms. Patricia A. Hoffman, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, U.S. Department of Energy;
- Dr. Arun Majumdar, Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E), U.S. Department of Energy;
- Mr. Alan Shaffer, Principal Deputy Director, Defense Research and Engineering, U.S. Department of Defense; and
- Dr. Dana Christensen, Associate Laboratory Director, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
At the beginning of the event, both Reps. Gordon and Baird spoke about the hope of the committee to identify creative initiatives that both agencies would jointly undertake. The Science Committee has been credited with the creation of the ARPA-E program, and both members have demonstrated a sustained interest in energy technology development and commercialization.
On this afternoon in Washington, D.C., neither was likely to be disappointed by what they heard from agency officials. Touting a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two agencies, Assistant Secretary Hoffman highlighted a number of projects that the Energy agency had undertaken to accelerate national initiatives like clean energy deployment and smart grid capability. Dr. Majumdar, the first leader for the ARPA-E program, told of the brand new program's mission to fund high risk/high reward research that could spurn new domestic industries and ensure economic growth. Finally, Deputy Director Shaffer framed the military's objectives within the goals of national security and safety for military personnel.
As the event concluded, Chairman Gordon indicated that the briefing series would likely continue before Congress adjourns for good to begin preparing for a new session of Congress.
For more information about Chairman Gordon, Chairman Baird, or the House Science Committee itself, please visit: http://www.science.house.gov/
Robert Rains covers public policy-related energy issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com *
NEW NRC PUBLICATION ASSESSES IMPLICATIONS OF OTHER NATIONS' S&T
A new publication by the National Research Council's (NRC) Committee on Global Science and Technology Strategies analyzes the science and technology (S&T) strategies of Japan, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Singapore (JBRICS), six countries that have either undergone or are undergoing remarkable growth in their S&T capabilities for the purpose of identifying unique national features and how they are utilized in the evolving global S&T environment.
An increase in global access to goods and knowledge is transforming world-class science and technology (S&T) by bringing it within the capability of an unprecedented number of global parties who must compete for resources, markets, and talent. In particular, globalization has facilitated the success of formal S&T plans in many developing countries, where traditional limitations can now be overcome through the accumulation and global trade of a wide variety of goods, skills, and knowledge. As a result, centers for technological research and development (R&D) are now globally dispersed, setting the stage for greater uncertainty in the political, economic, and security arenas.
"S&T Strategies of Six Countries: Implications for the United States" examines how these changes will have a potentially enormous impact for U.S. national security policy, which for the past half century has been premised on U.S. economic and technological dominance. The publication finds that as the U.S. monopoly on talent and innovation wanes, arms export regulations and restrictions on visas for foreign S&T workers are becoming less useful as security strategies. The acute level of S&T competition among leading countries in the world today suggests that countries that fail to exploit new technologies or that lose the capability for proprietary use of their own new technologies will find their existing industries uncompetitive or obsolete. The increased access to information has transformed the 1950s' paradigm of "control and isolation" of information for innovation control into the current one of "engagement and partnerships" between innovators for innovation creation. Current and future strategies for S&T development need to be considered in light of these new realities.
To read the publication on-line, or to order a copy, go to: http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12920#description
Paul Fakes covers public policy-related research and development (R&D) issues for ASME. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org *
NIST RELEASES 2009 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER REPORT
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released the 2009 Technology Transfer Report, an annual report summarizing the technology transfer activities and achievements of the U.S. Department of Commerce's scientific research agencies, including NIST, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Institute for Telecommunication Sciences. In addition to performance metrics, the report features anecdotes that demonstrate how investment in research and development improves the lives of American citizens and spurs the development of new products.
Technology transfer is an essential mission of federal laboratories that leverages the creative intellectual capital of government scientists and the nation's investments in science and technology to strengthen the American economy and the nation's ability to compete in world markets.
"Department of Commerce labs contribute to the economy through their research, research that results in the invention of new technologies or the improvement of existing technologies," says Paul Zielinski, director of NIST's Technology Partnerships Office. "Transferring that technology from the public to the private sector translates taxpayer dollars into economic growth and the creation of new jobs."
As one example of technology transfer, the report describes how NIST researchers, together with the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, have studied the effects of wind on fires in high-rise buildings. Based on NIST's recommendations, the FDNY amended their standard operating procedures for apartment dwellings and produced new training materials to teach their 11,000 members how to employ these new technologies. This effort has caught the attention of firefighters worldwide.
An electronic version of this report and versions from previous fiscal years are available online at: www.nist.gov/tpo/publications/upload/2009-Tech-Transfer-Rept-FINAL.pdf
Robert Rains covers public policy-related standards issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com
THE ARTICLES CONTAINED IN CAPITOL UPDATE ARE NOT POSITIONS OF ASME OR ANY OF ITS SUB-ENTITIES, UNLESS SPECIFICALLY NOTED AS SUCH. THIS PUBLICATION IS DESIGNED TO INFORM ASME MEMBERS ABOUT ISSUES OF CONCERN BEING DEBATED AND DISCUSSED IN THE HALLS OF CONGRESS, IN THE STATES, AND IN THE FEDERAL AGENCIES.
EDITOR: Mary James Legatski, ASME Government Relations, 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 906, Washington, DC 20036-5104.