In this issue:

 

 

ADVANCE YOUR CAREER AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE!  APPLY FOR AN ASME FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FELLOWSHIP!
ASME is currently accepting applications for participation in its Federal Government Fellowship Program through which ASME members provide engineering and technical expertise to policy-makers in Congress (Congressional Fellowships) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (ASME Foundation "Swanson" Fellowship). Federal Fellows provide a valuable public service to the nation while at the same time providing engineers with a unique opportunity to participate directly in the public policy making process.
 
Persons interested in serving as a 2011-2012 Congressional Fellow would spend one year in Washington, DC working with the staff of a congressional committee, U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative. Congressional Fellowships are designed to demonstrate the value of engineering-government interaction, bring technical backgrounds and external perspectives to the decision making process in Congress and provide a unique public policy learning experience to the Fellow. Because of the limited number of Congressional Fellowships available, the process is very competitive. The following credentials are encouraged: at least five years of professional experience; an advanced engineering degree; professional engineer registration; and, some public policy experience.
 
The ASME Foundation "Swanson" Fellowship was established in 2010 in recognition of Dr. John A. Swanson, an internationally recognized authority and innovator in the application of finite element methods to engineering. The Swanson Fellowship provides a unique opportunity for an experienced engineer to serve as a Federal Fellow in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), where her/his broad, multi-disciplinary background would be applied to finding solutions to technical issues. The Swanson Fellow will confer with public policy professionals to make practical contributions on the most effective use of engineering in federal decision making.  Swanson Fellow applicants should be established engineering researchers/practitioners with an advanced degree in engineering plus approximately ten years of R&D product development experience in an academic setting or in industry.  Entrepreneurial experience, R&D commercialization and some understanding of working with federal agencies are also desirable.
 
ASME Fellows will be awarded a stipend of $60,000 for the one year Fellowship.
ASME Federal Fellows typically serve from September through August, but a January through December term is sometimes an option. Applications are accepted annually from December 1st through March 31st. All Fellows must be U.S. citizens and ASME members at the time of application. Federal employees are not eligible.
 
To apply for the Congressional Fellowship or the Swanson Fellowship, fill out the online application at:
https://secure.asme.org/fedgovfellows/appform.cfm and provide the requested materials. The application deadline is March 31, 2011.
 
Visit the ASME Federal Government Fellowship Program for additional information.
or contact Kathryn Holmes, Director, ASME Government Relations, at holmesk@asme.org  or 202-785-7390.

 

 

FAR FROM LAME: SENATE PASSES THE AMERICA COMPETES ACT
On the precipice of an expiring legislative mandate that prioritizes basic scientific and engineering research, lawmakers in the Senate were finally able to garner sufficient support to advance the "America COMPETES Reauthorization Act" by unanimous consent late last week.  This preserves a critical legislative priority that the Obama Administration and Congressional leaders have both recognized to be a crucial step in the direction of retaining the nation's global economic competitiveness.  Just before the Memorial Day recess earlier this year, lawmakers in the House passed H.R. 5116, "The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010," by a vote of 262-150.  Although the House version was a five-year reauthorization bill, the Senate version is for three years through fiscal year (FY) 2013. 
 
This landmark legislation, originally passed in 2007, was based on the 2005 National Academies' report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm." The report found that the scientific and technological building blocks critical to our economic leadership were eroding at a time when many other nations' were gathering strength. COMPETES incorporated the science and technology recommendations from the report and was signed into law with broad bipartisan support in 2007. It expired at the end of FY 2010 (for more information, please see the May 28, 2010 edition of Capitol Update).

The Senate-passed bill will slowly ramp up authorized funding over the next three years for basic research programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and the labs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  While the bill does not include the ambitious funding levels sought by the House, it does go further than the original legislation by providing $918 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a new DOE program which rewards funding for high risk/high reward research concepts.  The bill would also authorize the creation of a Department of Commerce Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, as well as make loan guarantees available for high-technology manufacturing.
 
In short, this bill would:

  • Support short-term programs like the Innovative Technology Federal Loan Guarantees to address the immediate need of small- and medium-sized manufacturers to access capital to make necessary updates to become more efficient and stay competitive;
  • Support mid-term programs like the Regional Innovation Clusters to strengthen regional economies and advance the work done in a given field by leveraging collaboration and communication between businesses and other entities;
  • Invest in basic research through the reauthorization of the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); and,
  • Reauthorize the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) to pursue high-risk, high-reward energy technology development.

The bill would also expand, strengthen, and align Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education programs at all levels of education by:

  • Supporting grants to increase the number and quality of students receiving undergraduate degrees in STEM and to improve the STEM learning outcomes for all undergraduate students;
  • Providing grants to implement or expand research-based reforms in master's and doctoral level STEM education that emphasize preparation for diverse careers in the STEM workforce; and,
  • Ensuring greater coordination of STEM education programs across federal agencies.

The versions passed by both chambers, although seeking to accomplish the same goal related to basic scientific and engineering research and STEM education, are not identical, and must be reconciled before a bill can be sent to President Obama for his signature.  Therefore, the House is slated to re-consider this legislation on Tuesday.  To learn more about the America COMPETES Act, please visit: http://www.science.house.gov/press/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=2853
 
ASME has been supportive of the America COMPETES Act since its inception.  Earlier this year, now ASME Past President Amos E. Holt partnered with the presidents of 26 other professional engineering societies to endorse a reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act.  To read this letter to the leadership of the House Science and Technology Committee, please visit: /getmedia/08975000-6ED6-44F0-A06A-8E0611A451BF/PS1019.aspx    
 
Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: rainsr@asme.org
 
Paul Fakes handles public policy-related research and development (R&D) issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: fakesp@asme.org
 
Melissa Carl handles public policy-related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education issues for ASME. She can be reached at: carlm@asme.org

 

 

CONGRESS MAY PUNT APPROPRIATIONS TO 2011
After weeks of tense negotiations to pass a FY 2011 omnibus appropriations measure in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) conceded to pressure from anti-earmark Republicans and pulled the massive spending package from the floor late Thursday night.  The omnibus appropriations bill would have combined all twelve annual appropriations bills into one massive spending package.  While the bill included more funding than the one-year Continuing Resolution (CR) measure the House passed on December 8th, it still came in at billions below the President's request for FY 2011.  The fate of the House-passed CR remains uncertain.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is proposing passage of a straightforward 2-month CR to keep the government funded into next year, but Senate leaders were still mulling over how to keep the government running as of press time. However, the failure of the Senate omnibus spending bill represents a setback for investments in federal research.  While the House-passed CR largely extended FY10 funding levels to FY11, the Senate's bill included key 'plus-ups' to several science-related agencies, including the Department of Defense (DOD), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Energy (DOE), and more.  In addition, House and Senate leaders had agreed to key increases for NASA as an agency facing exceptional circumstances this year, but those negotiations may now be swept aside in the rush to head home for the holidays.

Senate Democrats will now likely attempt to pass the House-passed year-long CR before acquiescing to Republican demands to punt budget decisions to the new 112th Congress next year.  If the year-long CR measure fails to pass, science agencies may face deeper cuts early next year, as the incoming Republican Majority in the House has pledged to slice at least $100 billion from the federal budget.  House Republican Leaders have recently targeted science funding at the NSF as a candidate for their 'You Cut' program, which allows the internet-browsing public a chance to vote on cuts for various federal spending projects.

For more information on the 'You Cut' program, please visit: http://republicanwhip.house.gov/YouCut/Review.htm

Paul Fakes handles public policy-related research and development (R&D) issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: fakesp@asme.org

 

 

EIA RELEASES 2011 OUTLOOK
The Department of Energy Energy Information Administration (EIA), the statistical arm of the department, recently released its preliminary 2011 energy forecast report.  Data from EIA reports is often cited by both sides of the energy debate to reinforce opposing beliefs regarding effective energy strategies.  In the 2011 forecast, the U.S. will continue to have a broad energy portfolio, with coal commanding the largest percentage and natural gas gaining as new reserves are discovered through improved technology.  This outlook also forecasts that demand for imported energy, mainly oil, will be moderated by the following factors: increased use of domestically-produced biofuels, demand reductions resulting from the adoption of new efficiency standards, and rising energy prices.

Among the projections for the EIA forecast by 2035 are:

  • Energy consumption will likely jump 21 percent by 2035;
  • The net energy import share of total U.S. energy consumption in 2035 will be 18 percent, compared with 24 percent in 2009, mostly due to an acceleration in the use of biofuels, and the introduction of electric vehicles;
  • Generation share from renewable resources is on track to increase from
    11 percent in 2009 to 14 percent in 2035 in response to federal tax credits and individual state mandates; and
  • A 10 percent increase in the use of nuclear power, with five additional plants being constructed by 2035.

The reference case released last week will be supplemented by additional information and alternative scenarios, and be included in the final EIA 2011 energy forecast, which is slated to be released in March of 2011.  For now, EIA assumed that current laws would remain in effect or that laws scheduled to sunset would, in fact, expire.

To review the entire report, please visit:  http://www.eia.doe.gov/forecasts/aeo/

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at rainsr@asme.org.

 

 

PISA RESULTS: SOME IMPROVEMENT FOR U.S. STUDENTS IN SCIENCE, BUT STILL JUST AVERAGE
Earlier this month, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released the results from the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses the capabilities of 15 year-olds from over 60 countries in reading, mathematics, and science.  With the exception of some improvement in science from 2006 to 2009, U.S. performance on PISA has been largely stagnant, and at the best average.

Alongside OECD officials at the announcement, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan summarized U.S. students' performance as the following:

  • "In reading literacy, 15-year-old American students were average performers. The U.S. effectively showed no improvement in reading since 2000. Overall, the OECD's rankings have U.S. students in 14th place in reading literacy among OECD nations.
  • In mathematics, U.S. 15-year-olds are below-average performers among OECD nations— ranked 25th. After a dip in their 2006 math scores, U.S.
    students returned to the same level of performance in 2009 as six years earlier, in 2003. U.S. students outperformed their peers in math in only five OECD countries.
  • The most encouraging finding from PISA is that the average science score is up. In 2006, American 15-year-olds had below-average skills in scientific literacy, compared to their OECD peers. Today, U.S. students have improved enough to become average performers in science among OECD nations, earning 17th place in the OECD rankings."

Duncan then responded to the results, saying "The hard truth is that other high-performing nations have passed us by during the last two decades…In a highly competitive knowledge economy, maintaining the educational status quo means America's students are effectively losing ground."

To review the 2009 PISA results, please visit:  http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/

PISA was begun in 2000, and is administered every three years.  The next PISA administration will take place in 2012.

The same day, OECD released another report entitled, "Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA for the United States," which examines various aspects of education in high-performing or fast-improving countries, including distribution of resources, classroom environment, and assessment and accountability practices. The study was conducted by researchers from the National Center for Education and the Economy.

The aforementioned OECD report can be found at:
http://www.edweek.org/media/gps-us-strong-performers-and-successful-reformers.pdf

Melissa Carl handles public policy-related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education issues for ASME.  She can be reached at: carlm@asme.org

 

 

NASA SEEKS NONPROFIT TO MANAGE SPACE STATION NATIONAL LAB RESEARCH
As the International Space Station transitions from its assembly phase to full utilization as a unique scientific outpost, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is investing in the station's future use by ensuring a wide pool of organizations outside the agency have access to the orbiting lab.

NASA is seeking an independent, non-profit research management organization to develop and manage the U.S. portion of the station, which was designated a national laboratory in 2005. The NASA Authorization Act of 2010, in addition to extending station operations until at least 2020, also directed NASA to establish this organization to manage station research by other U.S. government agencies, academic institutions and private firms.

The organization will stimulate uses of the station as a national laboratory and maximize the U.S. investment in this initiative. The selected organization will capitalize on the unique venue of the orbiting laboratory as a national resource; and develop and manage a diversified research and development portfolio based on U.S. needs for basic and applied research in a variety of fields.

"NASA recognizes the station is an extraordinary asset for the nation," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Scientific research and development and education are critical to our national growth and prosperity as a high technology society. The station offers exceptional opportunities to contribute to this growth. By taking this action, we are ensuring the station is available for broad, meaningful and sustained use."

The draft cooperative agreement is available for review at: at: http://nspires.nasaprs.com

Paul Fakes handles public policy-related NASA issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: fakesp@asme.org

 

 

PUBLIC COMMENT SOUGHT ON NNI NANOEHS STRATEGY
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is seeking public comment on the draft National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) Strategy for Nanotechnology-Related Environmental, Health, and Safety Research ("NNI nanoEHS strategy").  In order to fully realize the promise of nanotechnology, research is needed to understand its environmental, health, and safety (EHS) implications, help assess potential risks, and provide guidance on the safety of nanomaterials throughout the product life cycle, from manufacture to use to disposal.

The draft NNI nanoEHS research strategy includes a scientific framework that incorporates the research needed to assess the environmental, health and safety of nanomaterials. It describes the NNI nanoEHS research investment by research need, the state of the science, and an analysis of the gaps and barriers to achieving that research as part of the NNI's adaptive management process. It updates and replaces the NNI EHS Strategy of February 2008.

The goal of the strategy is to ensure the responsible development of nanotechnology by providing guidance to the Federal agencies that produce the scientific information for risk management, regulatory decision-making, product use, research planning, and public outreach. The core research areas providing this critical information are measurement, human exposure assessment, human health, and the environment, which inform risk assessment and risk management.

The draft NNI nanoEHS strategic plan is available at:
http://strategy.nano.gov/blog/generic/page/draft-nni-ehs-strategy

Comments on the draft plan must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on January 6, 2011 and should be no more than 4,000 characters in length. Responses may be posted at the NNI Strategy Portal (http://strategy.nano.gov/) or e-mailed to nnistrategy@ostp.gov.

Paul Fakes handles public policy-related research and development (R&D) issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: fakesp@asme.org

 

 

NIST SEEKS 2011 MALCOLM BALDRIGE NATIONAL QUALITY AWARD EXAMINERS
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking exceptional individuals to serve on the 2011 Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Examiners evaluate applications for the Award and prepare feedback reports to applicants that cite strengths and opportunities for improvement. They also act as "ambassadors" for the Baldrige Program and performance excellence.

The application form for the 2011 Board of Examiners is now available online at: www.nist.gov/baldrige/examiners/index.cfm.  Applications must be submitted electronically by 5 PM EST on January 13, 2011.

The board consists of more than 500 volunteers, including 12 judges and about 60 senior examiners representing many industries and sectors.  Service on the board provides opportunities to enhance one's knowledge about improving processes and achieving world-class results, develop a network of like-minded colleagues, and help improve U.S. competitiveness.

Robert Rains handles public policy-related NIST issues for ASME.  He can be reached at rainsr@asme.org.

 

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.