October 9, 2015
Capitol Update

In this issue:


On October 1st, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Senate amendment to the STEM Education Act (H.R. 1020). The bill strengthens ongoing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education efforts at federal science agencies and ensures computer science is included in these efforts as a subject that builds on the traditional STEM subjects. The bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature and enactment.

Some of the major provisions in the STEM Education Act of 2015 include:

  • Expands existing federal grants and programs related to STEM education to include computer science education;
  • Supports competitive merit-reviewed grants for informal STEM education, which is learning outside of the classroom at places like museums, science centers, and after school programs;
  • Amends the National Science Foundation Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship program to allow teachers in pursuit of master’s degrees to apply for the grant and explicitly includes computer science teachers. The STEM Education Act would allow more teachers the opportunity to compete for the grant, better reflecting the current reality facing our schools, especially in high-need areas; and,
  • No new or additional spending is authorized in this bill.

For additional information, go to: http://thomas.loc.gov, and search by bill number.


The House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing this week on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposal. The subcommittee received testimony from the EPA’s Janet McCabe, Acting Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation.

On August 3, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two final rules and a third proposed rule to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new and existing fossil fuel-fired power plants.

The subcommittee’s hearing examined these regulations and included a large focus on one of the committee’s primary responses to the Administration’s plan, the Ratepayer Protection Act. The legislation, which was passed by the House but has stalled in the Senate, would extend the deadline for compliance with the Clean Power Plan and grant state governors the power to ban implementation of state or federal clean power plans if they determine such implementation would have a significant adverse effect on retail, commercial, or industrial ratepayers or the reliability of the state’s electricity system.

For more information on the hearing, please visit: http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearing/epa%E2%80%99s-co2-regulations-new-and-existing-plants


Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) awarded nearly $2 million to 11 universities to research new ideas and technologies that will improve the safety of the nation’s energy transportation pipelines. PHMSA has provided almost $3.5 million for student and faculty researchers since 2013 as part of its Competitive Academic Agreement Program (CAAP); the latest round of awards is more than double the amount that PHMSA awarded the previous year.

PHMSA launched CAAP to engage students enrolled in graduate and Ph.D. programs to research common pipeline safety challenges and demonstrate how their engineering or other technical backgrounds may contribute to the field of pipeline safety. This year’s applicants received as much as $300,000 for their proposed studies on topics such as calculating pipe toughness, enabling plastic pipeline detection, protecting pipelines from corrosion, and detecting methane emissions. PHMSA has invested nearly $93 million dollars in R&D projects that have resulted in 22 patent applications and 25 new pipeline technologies.

Proposals were evaluated on their relevance to PHMSA’s mission, scientific merit, feasibility and past institutional performance. PHMSA intends to adopt the most promising findings into its core research program for further, long-term investigation.

For more information about the awardees or research program, go to: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/

From 2003 to 2013, the number of scientists and engineers residing in the U.S. rose from 21.6 million to 29 million. An important factor in that increase: over the same time period, the number of immigrant scientists and engineers went from 3.4 million to 5.2 million.

Immigrants went from making up 16 percent of the science and engineering workforce to 18 percent, according to a new report from the National Science Foundation's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). In 2013, the latest year for which numbers are available, 63 percent of U.S. immigrant scientists and engineers were naturalized citizens, while 22 percent were permanent residents and 15 percent were temporary visa holders.

Of the immigrant scientists and engineers in the United States in 2013:

  • 57 percent were born in Asia;
  • 20 percent were born in North America (excluding the United States), Central America, the Caribbean or South America;
  • 16 percent were born in Europe;
  • 6 percent were born in Africa; and,
  • Less than one percent were born in Oceania.

Among Asian countries, India continued its trend of being the top country of birth for immigrant scientists and engineers, with 950,000 out of Asia's total 2.96 million. India's 2013 figure represented an 85 percent increase from 2003. Also since 2003, the number of scientists and engineers from the Philippines increased 53 percent and the number from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, increased 34 percent.

The most common broad fields of study for immigrant scientists and engineers in 2013 were engineering, computer and mathematical sciences, and social and related sciences.

Additional information about the report can be found at:  http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/stem-workforce-development/


Continuing expansion of federal research regulations and requirements is diminishing the effectiveness of the U.S. scientific enterprise and lowering the return on the federal investment in research by directing investigators’ time away from research and toward administrative matters, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  The report identifies specific actions Congress, the White House, federal agencies, and research institutions should take to reduce the regulatory burden.

Steps should also be taken to strengthen the nation’s government-university research partnership, which is currently under stress, the report says. It urges Congress to create a public-private Research Policy Board to support this partnership and cooperative efforts to streamline research policies going forward. The report also calls upon universities to demand the highest standards in institutional and individual behavior, noting that some institutions have failed to respond appropriately to researchers’ transgressions. 

Academic institutions and individual investigators often receive research funding from multiple federal agencies, but approaches to similar requirements – such as grant proposals, disclosure of financial conflict of interest, and animal care – are not harmonized across agencies. Regulations, reporting requirements, and congressional mandates frequently overlap, resulting in duplication of effort, multiple reporting of the same information in different formats, and multiple submissions of information on different schedules. Conflicting guidance on compliance requirements has created uncertainty and confusion, often leading universities to implement overly prescriptive procedures in an effort to avoid penalties and thereby adding to the administrative burden.

The reports also recommends that a new framework is needed to approach regulation in a holistic, rather than piecemeal, way to ensure that regulatory requirements are harmonized across funding agencies and create a more effective and efficient partnership between funding agencies and research institutions.

To review the report, please visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/research-and-development/


PitchBook has released a special venture capital (VC) report, featuring its annual breakdown of which universities produce the most VC-backed entrepreneurs. Ranking top undergraduate and MBA programs, the report also breaks down the numbers by geography, lists which universities produce the most female founders and more. In addition, the report includes several bonus pieces of venture-related PitchBook content, including analysis of the emergence of private IPOs.

This third edition of rankings of top universities producing VC-backed entrepreneurs updates the previous rankings of undergraduate and MBA programs worldwide to track numbers from the start of 2010 through the end of July 2015, drawing from an expanded VC database of 25,000+ valuations, 970,000+ people and 78,000+ VC-backed companies.

The report found that undergraduate alumni from the top 10 universities for VC-backed entrepreneurs launched over 3,000 companies that were able to attract $33.5 billion in VC funding from 2010 to 2015. Four public research institutions, -- UC-Berkeley, University of Michigan, University of Texas, and University of Illinois -- finished in the top 10. The authors conclude that public research institutions that ranked among the 50 top VC-backed undergraduate entrepreneurs represent the intersection of emerging or maturing startup ecosystems and academia.

To read the report, visit http://pitchbook.com/PitchBook_Universities_Report_2015_2016_Edition.html?utm_source=SSTI+Weekly+Digest&utm_campaign=cb5064e1b3-SSTI_Weekly_Digest_10_1_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ecf5992d4c-cb5064e1b3-211894153

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