May 4, 2018
Capitol Update

In this issue:


Over 150 leaders – the Presidents, Presidents-Elect and Executive Directors – from 45 professional engineering societies, representing more than two million engineers, recently attended the Annual Engineering Public Policy Symposium” which was convened on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.   This is the 15th year that ASME has served as the lead organizer of the event, which was made possible by a grant from the United Engineering Foundation and its Founder Societies:  ASME, AIChE, AIME, ASCE and IEEE-USA. The Symposium was convened in conjunction with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Convocation and American Association of Engineering Societies.

ASME President Charla Wise welcomed the leaders of the engineering community and thanked them for their continued participation.  Wise informed attendees that the focus of the meeting was on policy priorities pertaining to “Federal Investments in Engineering and Science to Spur Innovation and Competitiveness.”  She briefly discussed some of the findings of the National Science Board report entitled “Science and Engineering Indicators 2018,” released earlier this year, which emphasizes that although the United States continues to be the global leader in science and technology (S&T), the U.S. global share of S&T activities continues to decline as other nations — especially China — continue to rise.

Mr. Patrick J. Natale, Executive Director of the United Engineering Foundation, then introduced the Keynote Speaker, Dr. Walter G. Copan, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  Dr. Copan discussed a new initiative entitled “Unleashing American Innovation” and the interactions NIST has been having with the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the inter-agency National Science and Technology Council, as well as stakeholders in the public and private sectors across the nation to assess and improve the transfer of technology from federally funded R&D to U.S.  Additional information on this new initiative and the request for information is provided in the article below.

Next, IEEE-USA President, Sandra “Candy” Robinson introduced Matt Hourihan, Director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program at AAAS, who provided an in-depth review of the status of federal funding for science and engineering research, as well as an overview of the President’s proposed budget request for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) that was released in February.  Hourihan noted that President Trump signed into law a $1.3 trillion spending package in March that included significant increases by Congress for federally sponsored scientific research, infrastructure and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

The Past President of AIChE, Maria Burka, then introduced the next panel session, which included ASCE President Kristina Swallow, who moderated a discussion between Mr. Stephen Bayless, Vice President of Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs with the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, and Mr. Robert Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Investing in Traditional and Innovation Infrastructure. Bayless discussed smart transportation and autonomous vehicles, as well as other emerging technologies that are changing transportation.  Atkinson briefly discussed his report entitled “Investing in Innovation Infrastructure to Restore U.S. Growth,” in which he makes the case that the US should consider investments in research and development in the kinds of infrastructure that could be linked to innovation that would enable technological advancements and therefore higher productivity and growth levels.

Later in the morning, ASME President Charla Wise moderated a panel discussion with officials from key federal research agencies on the topic of Investing in Transformative Technologies. The panel was comprised of Mr. Michael F. Molnar, Director of the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); Dr. Dawn Tilbury, Assistant Director of the Engineering Directorate with the National Science Foundation; Ms. Valri Lightner, Deputy Director (Acting) of the Advanced Manufacturing Office with the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; and Mr. Eric Lightner, Director of the Federal Smart Grid Task Force with the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.  Mr. Molnar and Ms. Lightner discussed how advanced manufacturing technologies and the work of the Manufacturing USA Institutes enable crosscutting innovation in a variety of engineering disciplines. Dr. Tilbury discussed NSF’s 10 Big Ideas which are meant to catalyze interest and investment in fundamental research, which is the basis for discovery, invention and innovation. Finally, Eric Lightner discussed enabling a more secure and reliable electric grid, including resilience against cybersecurity threats and extreme weather events.
To conclude the event, John Speer, Ph.D., AIME President, introduced two ASME Congressional Fellows - Andrew Bicos, Ph.D. serving in Congressman Tom Reed’s (R-NY) office and Shawn Moylan, Ph.D. serving in the office of Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) – joined with Tanya Das, an Optical Society of America-International Society for Optical Engineering/American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow serving in Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) office. They discussed the opportunities and challenges the Fellowships provided, as well as the broad issues portfolios they addressed. In particular, they emphasized the bipartisanship they encountered in moving legislation forward.

The Symposium is designed to inform and engage leaders of the engineering community on public policy issues that are important to advancing research and technology. Engineers play a vital role in meeting the challenges currently facing the nation and our future workforce, and the Symposium provides a platform for them to stay engaged in public policies that affect virtually every aspect of the engineering profession.
At the conclusion of the Symposium, several attendees took the opportunity to meet with their Members of Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to strengthen their relationships with policymakers, inform them of the importance of investments in federally funded research and development, as well as to offer their services as a technical resource to policymakers.


The objective of this initiative is to increase the return on investment (ROI) from the roughly $150 billion annual investment in research and development (R&D).  To produce economic gain and maintain a strong national security innovation base, the results must be transferred to private companies to create new products and services. In order to advance the President's Management Agenda to modernize government for the 21st century, including the associated Lab-to-Market cross-agency priority (CAP) Goal in coordination with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is initiating an effort to refocus Federal technology transfer on sound business principles based on private investment.

NIST requests information from the public regarding the current state of Federal technology transfer and the public's ability to engage with Federal laboratories and access federally funded R&D through collaborations, licensing, and other mechanisms. Responses to this RFI will inform NIST's evaluation of Federal technology transfer practices, policies, regulations, and/or laws that promote the transfer of Federal technologies and the practical application of those technologies, including through commercialization by the private sector. NIST will hold public meetings regarding the initiative and the stakeholder engagement process at the times and locations indicated below.

Please note: The closing date for the RFI is Monday, July 30, 2018.  The public forum dates are: May 17th in San Jose California, May 21st in Denver Colorado, May 31st in Chicago Illinois, and June 14th at the NIST Campus in Gaithersburg, MD. 
Federal Register Notice Link:  

Direct link to the RFI Website:


Two new studies from the University of Cambridge are calling for a major shakeup in the awarding of National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. The studies contend that the current merit based system of awarding federal grants is biased towards those who previously received federal funding, significantly augmenting the chances of winning a grant again. The authors of the studies assert that a lottery-based system would be a more objective method of selection that would also have a stronger impact on research and development than the current selection system.

With the current merit-based grant selection system, the concerns of bias are strong. The studies note that younger researchers have far less success winning grants, as do submissions for more “innovative” proposals or those submitting from a less prestigiously ranked institution.  This has ramifications beyond simply being “unfair.” With older researchers that have previously won grants continuing to be selected in lieu of younger researchers with more provocative proposals, there will come about a dearth of researchers with “proven track records” when their older counterparts retire. According to the Cambridge study authors, a lottery-based system would not only create a more equal-playing field among candidates, it would also ensure there remains a strong pool of candidates into the future.

One of the studies, “Centralised Funding and Epistemic Exploration” states that this reticence to support researchers that do not have a proven track record has also been detrimental to scientific innovation and exploration. The second study, “What do We Know About Grant Peer Review in the Health Sciences?” contends that there is a lack of strong evidence that shows a proven track record of R&D results will lead to continued R&D success.

View the report “Centralised Funding and Epistemic Exploration” here:
View the report “What do We Know About Grant Peer Review in the Health Sciences?” here:


Despite passing the House by unanimous voice vote last year, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353) has yet to be taken up by the Senate. The bill was introduced by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) with 40 co-sponsors. It would reauthorize and make slight changes to the Perkins Act, which establishes the guidelines for federally-funded career and technical education (CTE) programs.

This lack of movement has frustrated many on the Hill. At a recent event on workforce training, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) called the legislation “the biggest no-brainer on Capitol Hill”, but also conceded the bills non-controversial nature may also be its downfall. “The problem is it never becomes the number one priority for everyone at the same time. Whereas I view it as one of my top two or three, I can’t move the Speaker [Paul Ryan (R-WI) or [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to make it theirs.”

With China’s rapid ascent to R&D supremacy on the global stage, CTE programs are gaining traction and increased attention. Even the president has previously stated that he would like to make CTE a priority, a fact that was reflected in Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ proposed priorities for the year.  Even so, the bill remains in limbo with no clear signal from Leadership that it will become an election year priority. As Angel Hanks, director of work-force development policy at the Center for American Progress surmised, “Perkins is something that’s pretty popular. It should be relative low-hanging fruit, so it’s strange that it’s being held up.”

To view the Bill that was passed by the House, click here:

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.

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036

Paul Fakes is the Regulatory and Government Relations Manager, Technology Policy. He covers Standards and Energy and Environment.

Samantha Fijacko is the Senior Government Relations Representative. She covers Advanced Manufacturing, Robotics and R&D.

Anne Nadler is the Government Relations Representative. She covers Bioengineering, STEM Education and R&D.