events have dramatically changed the research environment in engineering.
events of September 11 have forced our nation to confront the fact that
terrorism is a very real and daily threat to our security and our way
of life. In the aftermath of those events and the subsequent anthrax
contamination of the mail, government attention has been intensely focused
on combating international and domestic terrorism and ensuring homeland
security. The measures that are being taken are having a very profound
effect on how
we do business in this country and on how we conduct our
that has been significantly affected by this intense focus on homeland
security is engineering research. This has been evidenced by a rather
dramatic shift in research funding priorities in recent months, with
major new initiatives in such areas as counterterrorism, cyber security,
and defense against weapons of mass destruction. Certainly, our colleges
and universities will need to be major players in these important research
initiatives, as well as other areas related to our national defense
and security, but there is a danger that they will be less able to do
so because of increasing government concern about dissemination of information
and about the involvement of international students and faculty in research
projects related to defense and controlled technologies.
The problem is further compounded by the increased restrictions on travel
by international students and faculty.
As I write
this article in mid-December, two relevant reports out of Washington
are drawing significant attention. The first is an announcement of the
appointment of members to the President's Council of Advisors on Science
and Technology (PCAST), co-chaired by presidential science advisor John
Marburger and high-tech venture capitalist Floyd Kvamme, and the formation
of PCAST subcommittees to focus on combating terrorism, energy efficiency,
broadband technology, and federal research funding priorities. The second
is a report that the U.S. State Department, in response to serious concerns
raised by the research community, is developing proposed amendments
to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) that would exempt
most unclassified university-based space research from export license
requirements. These two developments highlight the changes that are
affecting the type of research that our nation needs (and therefore
funds) and the environment in which that research is conducted. Now,
more than ever, it is critically important for those of us involved
in university engineering research to pay close attention to decisions
being made in our nation's capital and to make our views heard so that
those decisions are guided by our collective wisdom.
changing landscape for engineering research has led ASEE's Engineering
Research Council to focus this year's annual ERC Workshop and Forum
on the theme: New Directions in Engineering Research: Research
in Support of New National Defense and Security Strategies. The
ERC Work-shop and Forum will take place at the Arlington Hilton and
Towers in Ar-lington, Va., on February 24-26.
Workshop and Forum will be preceded by the biannual ERC Summit, an informal,
open discussion of topics related to strategic issues for engineering
research in universities and colleges. The workshop involves presentations
and discussions about the day-to-day issues facing those with responsibilities
for management of university-based engineering research. And the forum
affords an opportunity to hear from and interact with leaders from virtually
all of the federal research funding agencies, including NSF, NASA, NIH,
Defense Department agencies, and the Department of Energy.
the ERC events are intended to deal in broad terms with strategic research
issues, research administration issues, and federal funding trends,
respectively, the annual theme has afforded the opportunity to focus
some of the attention on an area that the ERC deems to be of major and
immediate significance. For example, themes of the recent past have
been nanotechnology in 2001, information technology in 2000, and bioengineering
and biotechnology in 1999. The theme this year was to have been energy,
but September 11 and the aftermath has changed that. More information
on the ERC summit, workshop and Forum may be found at www.asee.org/conferences/erc2002/.
Altiero is dean of the school of engineering at Tulane University
and chair of the Engineering Research Council at ASEE.
He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
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