The Monthly SWE Newsletter
July 2014
Public Policy

New NRC Report Focuses on Advancing Women of Color in Academia

On May 1 the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine held an event to disseminate the recent NRC report, “Seeking Solutions: Maximizing American Talent by Advancing Women of Color in Academia.” The report examines the current status of women of color who work as faculty in academia, the challenges faced by women of color, and discusses successful programs and policies for creating institutional transformation.

"Seeking Solutions" also clarifies factors and draws attention to ways that organizations can take action to create institutional cultures that are hospitable to people of any gender, race and ethnicity. The report also pinpoints reliable and credible data sources, as well as areas for new research and data collection.

To review an overview of the conference summary or the slides that were presented at the event, please visit The National Academies webpage.

SWE Mentioned at Senate Appropriations Hearing on “Driving Innovation Through Federal Investments”

The Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Driving Innovation Through Federal Investments.” Witnesses included the Directors of several federal science agencies including the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The written statements of each of the witnesses are available here.

The hearing focused on the role of federal investments in sparking innovations and discoveries that save lives, improve national security, create American jobs and grow the economy. In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) observed, “Research and development is conducted by more than two dozen federal departments and agencies. The total request for research and development for Fiscal Year 2015 is $135 billion. That includes $32 billion for basic research—research to discover; $33 billion for applied research—research to solve problems; $68 billion for development—to create products, processes; and $2.6 billion for facilities and equipment—the infrastructure needed for research and innovation. All told, research and development will account for an historic low 4 percent of the federal budget.”

OSTP Director John Holdren provided additional context for the role that federal investment plays in promoting innovation. “Federal investments in R&D help to: sustain the Federal component of the world-leading U.S. research, development and innovation enterprise; incentivize the private sector to lift its game in research, development and innovation; advance public-private partnerships that are restoring U.S. leadership in advanced manufacturing; boost research on growing public-health challenges including neurodegenerative diseases and antibiotic resistance; support further advances in cleaner, American energy; enhance the Nation’s capacity to address global climate-change through a combination of emissions reductions, preparedness and resilience, and global leadership; and continue to provide for the technological advances that have always given our armed forces the edge over every potential adversary.

“And investments in STEM education provide for the next generation of discoverers, inventors and high-tech entrepreneurs; ensure that the Nation has the tech-savvy workforce that the jobs of the 21st century require; and help create the science-savvy citizenry so important to a well-functioning democracy in a world where many of the issues before our policy makers have a science dimension.”

Prior to the hearing, Chairwoman Mikulski invited outside organizations to participate by submitting written testimony, which was included as part of the hearing record. More than 100 organizations responded to this call, including SWE. At the hearing, Chairwoman Mikulski mentioned SWE briefly as one of the groups who submitted testimony. Those statements may be read here.

An archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here.

NSF Releases New Strategic Planning Guide through 2018

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a new strategic plan in concert with the president's budget request to Congress for NSF in fiscal year 2015. The plan, titled "Investing in Science, Engineering and Education for the Nation's Future," sets goals to guide the agency through 2018.

NSF's plan sets out three strategic goals, each of which encompasses two or more objectives:

  • Transform the Frontiers of Science and Engineering: Invest in fundamental research to ensure significant continuing advances across science, engineering and education. Integrate education and research to support development of a diverse STEM workforce with cutting-edge capabilities. Provide world-class research infrastructure to enable major scientific advances.

  • Stimulate Innovation and Address Societal Needs through Research and Education: Strengthen the links between fundamental research and societal needs through investments and partnerships. Build the capacity of the nation to address societal challenges using a suite of formal, informal and broadly available STEM educational mechanisms.

  • Excel as a Federal Science Agency: Build an increasingly diverse, engaged and high-performing workforce by fostering excellence in recruitment, training, leadership and management of human capital. Use effective methods and innovative solutions to achieve excellence in accomplishing the agency's mission.

View the new plan.

NSF: Federal Science and Engineering Obligations to Universities and Colleges Dropped by Eleven Percent in FY 2011

In fiscal year (FY) 2011, federal agencies obligated $31.4 billion to 1,134 academic institutions for science and engineering activities, according to a new report from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.

The FY 2011 obligations represent an 11 percent decrease in current dollars from federal obligations to academic institutions for science and engineering activities in FY 2010. In FY 2010, federal obligations were $35.3 billion to 1,219 academic institutions. The decrease reflects the absence of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 stimulus funds in FY 2011.

The last ARRA funds were obligated in FY 2010 and accounted for $5.1 billion, or 14.5 percent, of FY 2010 science and engineering obligations to academic institutions. If ARRA obligations are excluded from FY 2010 totals, FY 2011 science and engineering obligations to academic institutions increased $1.2 billion or by 4.1 percent.

Read the complete report.

NAE Releases “STEM Integration in K-12 Education”

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) recently released “STEM Integration in K-12 Education,” a report that examines current efforts to connect the STEM disciplines in K-12 education. The report identifies and characterizes existing approaches to integrated STEM educations, both in formal and after- and out-of-school settings. The report reviews the impact of integrated approaches on various student outcomes. It also proposes a set of priority research questions to advance the understanding of integrated STEM education. “STEM Integration in K-12 Education” offers a framework to provide a common perspective and vocabulary for researchers, practitioners and others to identify, discuss and investigate specific integrated STEM initiatives within the K-12 education system of the United States.

“STEM Integration in K-12 Education” also makes recommendations for designers of integrated STEM experiences, assessment developers and researchers to design and document effective integrated STEM educations. This report will help to further their work and improve the chances that some forms of integrated STEM education will make a positive difference in student learning and interest.

Review the report.

COMPETES STEM Education Report Submitted to Congress

While the majority of Dr. John Holdren’s testimony in front of the House Science Committee focused on research and development, he announced the release of the administration’s progress report to Congress on the current federal STEM programs, which is required by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. Although this is the first report of its kind, the administration released a STEM strategic plan last May. The strategic plan was met with some opposition from within the STEM community, and the Administration took into consideration some of the objections voiced for this report.

In his testimony, Dr. Holdren said, “The President’s 2015 Budget maintains a strong commitment to STEM education and supports key principles from the 2014 Budget proposal and the goals of the Five-Year Strategic Plan, while making important changes that reflect input from the STEM education community and from the committee. One change is that the administration is not requesting a transfer of funding between agencies. As a result, some agencies have had a portion of their STEM education funds partially restored compared to the 2014 budget proposal. This means, for example, that funding is provided to NASA, NIH and NOAA to ensure that the STEM education community can take advantage of these agencies’ respective areas of expertise.”

Dr. Holdren continued by saying, “Agencies will focus on internal consolidations and eliminations, while funding their most effective programs. As a result, the 2015 Budget continues to reduce fragmentation, building on the substantial number of internal consolidations and eliminations that agencies began implementing in 2013 and 2014.”

Go here to review Dr. Holdren’s testimony.

View a copy of the new STEM report.

Science Committee Reviews the President’s FY 2015 Budget Request for Science Agencies

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology recently convened a hearing to review President Obama’s proposed fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget request for programs and science agencies under the committee’s jurisdiction. Dr. John P. Holdren, assistant to the president for Science and Technology and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), reported on the proposed budget in the context of the president’s overall priorities in science, space and technology and described how the administration determined priorities for funding across the scientific and engineering disciplines and agencies.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) questioned Dr. Holdren about a lack of transparency and accountability at the National Science Foundation (NSF), highlighting a number of specific NSF grants. Chairman Smith asked if Dr. Holdren thought NSF should be required to provide a justification for grants that have been funded by the American taxpayer.

While declining to speak about specific examples, Dr. Holdren agreed that the NSF should provide some justification on the agency’s website for grants. The Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R. 4186), approved earlier this month by the Research and Technology Subcommittee, expands accountability and focuses on transparency at NSF. Part of the FIRST Act requires NSF to describe why each grant is worthy of taxpayer funding and is in the national interest.

For additional information about this hearing, including witness testimony, please visit the Committee’s website.

Highlights of the president’s FY 2015 research and development budget request may be viewed here.

SWE President Presents at Senate STEM Caucus Briefing

On March 10, SWE President Stacey DelVecchio was an invited panelist for a Senate STEM Caucus briefing entitled, “The State of Diversity in America’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce.”

Other briefing panelists included: Dr. Dr. Irving McPhail, President and CEO, National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc.; Edith Bartley, Vice President of Government Affairs, Thurgood Marshall College Fund; Dr. Chad Womack, Director of STEM Initiatives, United Negro College Fund; Laura Maristany, Exec. Director of Leg. Affairs, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities; and, Ray Dempsey, Vice President, Government and Public Affairs, BP America.

The Co-Chairs of the Senate STEM Caucus are: Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). The primary organizer of the briefing was Senator Roger Wicker’s office, so the panelists were asked to highlight specific issues related to rural areas. The primary briefing audience was Senate staff.

President DelVecchio’s presentation is available on the public policy section of the SWE web site.

For more information about the briefing, please visit the @swetalk twitter feed for that day. SWE Washington Representative Melissa Carl was live-tweeting during the briefing and took several photos throughout the event.

The FY 2015 Science and Technology R&D Budget Released

The President’s fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget proposes $135.4 billion for Federal research and development (R&D) activities, an increase of $1.7 billion or 1.2 percent over FY 2014 enacted levels.

The budget calls for $65.9 billion for non-defense R&D, up 0.7 percent or $477 million from the 2014 enacted level, and $69.5 billion for defense R&D, up $1.2 billion or 1.7 percent from the 2014 enacted level. (All comparisons are to FY 2014 enacted and are in current, not-adjusted for-inflation dollars.) Basic and applied research investments total $64.7 billion, up $251 million or 0.4 percent from 2014. Investments in development total $68.0 billion, an increase of 2.3 percent over 2014.

Highlights of the FY 2015 budget include:

  • $30.2 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $200 million over FY 2014.
  • $12.3 billion for R&D at the Department of Energy (DOE), an increase of $950 million or 8.4 percent over FY 2014, including $5.1 billion for DOE’s Office of Science.
  • $11.6 billion for R&D at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to develop systems for human exploration of deep space; continue studies of our planet, the Sun, our solar system and the universe; continue development of the James Webb Space Telescope for launch in 2018; and, continue to develop, in collaboration with the private sector, U.S. capabilities for transporting human crews to the International Space Station.
  • $7.3 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), a one percent increase over FY 2014.
  • $680 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) intramural laboratories in the Department of Commerce, an increase of four percent over FY 2014.

The 2015 Budget also provides ongoing support for key interagency initiatives that coordinate investments in three cross-cutting areas of importance:

  • $2.5 billion for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), which coordinates and integrates Federal research and applications to assist the Nation and the world in understanding, assessing, predicting, and responding to global change and its related impacts and effects.
  • $3.8 billion for the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program, which provides strategic planning for and coordination of agency research efforts in cybersecurity, high-end computing systems, advanced networking, software development, high-confidence systems, health IT, wireless spectrum sharing, cloud computing, and other information technologies.
  • $1.5 billion for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), which supports R&D focused on materials, devices, and systems that use nanoscale technology.

The FY 2015 budget also includes $2.9 billion to support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, an increase of 3.7 percent over 2014 funding levels.

Additional details about the 2015 R&D Budget can be found on fact sheets and other resources here.

SWE Co-Hosts Capitol Hill Briefing on “Engineering Emergency: African Americans and Hispanics Lack Pathways to Engineering”

On February 19, SWE co-hosted a STEM Salon on Capitol Hill to mark the release of “Engineering Emergency: African Americans and Hispanics Lack Pathways to Engineering,” the most recent data release from Change the Equation (CTEq), a nonprofit, nonpartisan, CEO-led initiative that is mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning in the United States.

“Engineering Emergency: African Americans and Hispanics Still Lack Pathways to Engineering” explores gaps in the engineering pipeline. New data reveal disturbing trends in engineering degree attainment for people of color, trends that point to continued challenges of educational opportunity and access. The result: a failure to tap the creative potential of millions of Americans at a time when the nation is struggling to remain at the forefront of innovation.

Among the data points included in the new release are the following:

  • African Americans and Hispanics comprise a third of the college-aged population, yet together they earn fewer than 16 percent of all engineering degrees and certificates. Though their college-aged population has grown since 2001, their share of degrees and certificates remained mostly flat.
  • By 2022, 9 in 10 new engineering jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree yet most of the engineering credentials African American and Hispanics earn are below the bachelor’s level. The reverse is true for whites.
  • While Hispanic and African Americans face hurdles in engineering, they are not on the same trajectory. Since 2001, Hispanics have been making strides in engineering degrees at the bachelor’s level and higher while African Americans have fallen back.

CTEq CEO Linda Rosen moderated a panel discussion examining the present and future workforce implications of this opportunity shortage. Panelists included:

  • Gayle J. Gibson, Director of Engineering, DuPont.
  • Ioannis Miaoulis, President and Director, Museum of Science, Boston.
  • Robert L. Curbeam Jr., Vice President of Mission Assurance, Raytheon Company.

To read the new data release, visit here.

Additional co-hosts of the event included the American Society for Engineering Education, ASME, American Society of Civil Engineers, DiscoverE, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, and the National Center for Technological Literacy at the Museum of Science Boston.

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