26 January 2001

Copyright © 2001 World Expertise LLC – All rights reserved

A periodic electronic newsletter for engineering education leaders,

edited by Russel C. Jones, PhD., P.E.


International developments

  Two Japanese agencies, the Science and Technology Agency (STA) and the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, have been merged to create a superministry that will oversee 75% of public money spent on research and a similar proportion of the scientific workforce funded by the government. According to Dennis Normile, writing in the 5 January 2001 issue of Science, the merger is part of an overall consolidation of 22 cabinet level agencies into 12, with the aim of improving efficiency and reducing overlapping responsibilities. STA has 560 employees and a US$650 million budget, and the other agency has a staff of 1600 and spends US$53 billion annually. The merged agency will be called the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology, Sports and Culture (or Monbukagakusho in Japanese). See

The Canadian provinces of Quebec and Alberta have created new programs to attract talented academics and to discourage them from leaving for the U.S. According to an article by Janice Paskey in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Quebec is waving the provincial income tax for certain professors, about 23% of the annual salary of high-income earners. The policy, announced last fall, has already helped McGill University in recruitment. Alberta has set up a pool of US$8 million to help attract and retain faculty members. See

An international panel of hundreds of scientists, meeting in Beijing under UN auspices, has issued the most forceful warning yet on the threat of global warming. Writing in the 23 January 2001 issue of the Washington Post, Philip Pan reports that the panel predicts brutal droughts, floods and violent storms across the planet over the century because air pollution is causing surface temperatures to rise faster than anticipated. The unanimously approved report says that the Earth’s average temperature could rise by as much as 10.4 degrees over the next 100 years – the most rapid change in 10 millennia. Such a rise in temperature could melt polar ice caps and raise sea levels by as much as 34 inches, causing floods that could displace tens of millions of people in low-lying areas. The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cited evidence that most of the observed warming is attributable to human activities, primarily the burning of fuels that produce gasses that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. The U.S. is the largest producer of greenhouse gasses, with China ranked second. See

The February 2001 World Press Review features a cover story entitled “Cold Feet on Global Warming”. It cites several international press articles following up the UN climate summit at the Hague in November which failed to produce an accord on cutting polluting greenhouse gasses. From a French paper: “The U.S., with its wasteful lifestyle, annually pours 5.4 tons of carbon dioxide per capita into the atmosphere – 20 times what an African produces”. A British paper paints “A Grim Picture”, another British paper cites a threat to Pacific Islands in “Sea Levels Rising”, and articles from several countries are summarized in “Where do we go from here?”. See

The MIT MediaLabEurope in Dublin has been attacked by some Irish universities for getting too much scarce government money. According to Karen Birchard writing in the Chronicle, the Irish prime minister has committed US$50 million to the project. MIT had requested US$33 million for the project plus US$18 million for a building, citing its record of innovation and invention which could create the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs in Ireland. Local university leaders opposed giving such funding to an overseas institution rather than a local one. See

Germany’s central research foundation, the DFG, has announced a new program of “junior professorships” that will provide independent support for young researchers hoping to carve out an academic career. According to an article by Ohad Parnes in the 5 January 2001 issue of Science, the traditional post-PhD Habilitation requirement which requires 6 years or more in an academic apprenticeship under a senior professor is seen as a daunting barrier to young scientists. The new program will offer to young researchers 3 years of support for their own projects, rather than having them dependent on senior faculty members for support. At the same time, the German Donor’s Association – the country’s major private science funding agency – has announced funding for ‘research professorships’ for researchers under age 35, providing US$72,000 annually for a period of 4 years. These new programs are seen as a direct challenge to the hegemony of senior professors, and are seen as key steps in the eventual elimination of the Habilitation requirement. Today the average German academic is 44 before he or she is eligible for a tenured position. See

Three institutes in Russia have been awarded a US$2.4 million grant by the Carnegie Corporation of New York: Tomsk State University, Urals A.M. Gorkii State University, and Voronezh State University. According to a notice by Karolina Augustynowicz in the Chronicle, the Centers for Advanced Study and Education at these universities will enhance opportunities for research, education, and scholarship in Russia. A joint effort with the Russian Ministry of Higher Education, it as anticipated that five more such centers will be funded over the next several years. See

U.S. developments

Newly inaugurated President George W. Bush is reported to be considering splitting the role of chief science and technology advisor between two appointees. According to a report by Jennifer Ruark in the Chronicle, Mr. Bush has been advised by a Texas technologist to make such a split. But reports indicate that he is having trouble finding candidates who are willing to take the Science Advisor position if it is so downsized. See

The U.S. Congress eliminated the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in 1995, at a time when its role appeared to be more important than ever. Writing in the Winter 2000-01 issue of Issues in Science and Technology, Daryl Chubin addresses “Filling the Policy Vacuum Created by OTA’s Demise”. He addresses several needs not currently being adequately met: the diminution of policy capability throughout the federal agencies; the need for staff continuity and a refined and self-critical process for producing policy analysis; and the lack of career opportunities to attract young people to study and work in policy analysis. He concludes that there is a vacuum to fill, and urges readers of the article to consider how to fill it appropriately. See

The Bush administration does not intend to dismantle the direct-loan program, according to new Education Secretary Roderick Paige. Writing in the Chronicle, Stephen Burd cites this and other directions from Paige’s Congressional confirmation hearings. While most of the discussion centered on elementary and secondary education issues, some Democratic Senators expressed concerns about the new administration’s higher education priorities. Paige supported Bush’s proposal to front load Pell Grants with higher stipends in the first year, arguing that research shows that students who complete their first year have a higher probability of staying in college and getting a degree. See

President Bush unveiled his large plan for education on his second workday in the White House, a plan that aims to raise education standards and improve public schools. According to a Chronicle report by Stephen Burd, the package also contains proposal that would encourage families to save more money for college, and would authorize the creation of new partnerships between colleges and school districts to improve mathematics and science teaching in elementary and secondary schools. See

New faces in key science policy positions in Washington have resulting in reactions ranging from pleasure to puzzlement, according to an article by David Malakoff in the 12 January 2001 issue of Science. The new faces include a new chair of the House spending panel that controls the budgets of the National Institutes of Health; another that oversees research at NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Science Foundation; and new heads at the Department of Energy and EPA. Warmest reception by sciences advocates has been for Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), new head of the House Science Committee. This 10-term lawmaker is seen likely to focus on math and science education, alternative energy sources, and environmental research. Science lobbyists are still looking into other choices: Representative Ralph Regula (R-OH), new head of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the NIH budget, and Representative Sonny Callahan (R-AL) who now heads the spending panel that oversees the DOE budget. See

FY 2001 will be a banner year for federal research programs, according to a report in the Winter 2000-01 Issues in Science and Technology. The final budget agreement between outgoing President Clinton and the Congress raises the federal R&D budget to about $90.9 billion in FY 2001, an increase of 9.1% over the previous year. Among the major R&D funding agencies, only the National Science Foundation received less than the administration requested – but it still got an increase of 13.2% over the previous year. Non-defense R&D spending will increase by 11% overall, compared to a 7% increase for defense R&D. See A similar review of R&D funding is also available in an article by David Malakoff in the 5 January 2001 issue of Science. See    

“Rethinking the Land-Grant Research University for the Digital Age”, an article in the January/February 2001 issue of Change by Leann Parker, David Greenbaum, and Karl Pister, presents an interesting updating of the 140 year old concept that has guided agricultural and engineering colleges in support of societal priorities. The authors suggest K-12 education as a major new mission focus for the Land Grant schools. They observe that even if it is agreed that this focus is appropriate, doing so is no small task. They suggest that the Internet may allow transformation of the Land Grant University of the future that is capable of responding to the needs of K-12 education. See

The U.S Department of Education has cleared the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology in a conflict of interest investigation concerning an evaluator who took a job at an engineering college that he had judged just months earlier. According to a report by Dan Carnevale in the Chronicle, the Education Department wrote to ABET: “After careful examination of the materials you submitted, we agree that no violation of ABET’s conflict-of-interest policy can be found”.  The letter did indicate, however, that the department would examine the policies of the accreditation board the next time ABET was reviewed for Education Department recognition. ABET, however, has recently decided not to seek ongoing recognition from the Education Department, for independent reasons stemming from perceived misfit between the department’s standards and ABET’s new “outcomes assessment” model. See


An annual survey of freshmen suggests that political engagement among first-year students has reached an all time low, even though it typically jumps in election years. According to a report in the Chronicle by Alex Kellogg, only 28% of entering college students reported an interest in “keeping up to date with political affairs”. In 1966, that figure was 60%! The freshman survey, conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, in its 35th year, aims to show how the attitudes and aspirations of college freshmen change over time. Even though 28% indicated that they felt ‘overwhelmed by all they had to do”, those doing volunteer work held steady with last year at 81%. The gender gap among computer users has nearly closed according to the study, but women remain much less confident of their technological knowledge than their male counterparts. See An overview of the report is available at

ASEE’s Prism feature three articles on K-12 education in its February 2001 issue. An article by Alvin Sanoff describes how engineering schools are forging new relationships with K-12 teachers to help make science and math more exciting for kids. Stephen Budiansky describes trouble with K-12 science textbooks, charging that they do not help children grasp the most basic concepts about the world we live in. And Wray Herbert describes a curriculum that works – at Edison Friendship Junior Academy, where children do not memorize vocabulary or definitions, but end up learning facts and a lot more. See

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation is calling on colleges to do a better job of measuring what students learn, according to an article by Beth McMurtrie in the Chronicle. The president of the Council says that the traditional measure of how much students learn – grades – no longer satisfies employers, lawmakers, or the public. Government and businesses want to know more specifically what kind of competencies the students have. The Council is concerned that federal policymakers will step in to fill this need if colleges do not. Interest in improving student learning measures is heightened by both distance learning and the internationalization of higher education. See

In a Change article on service learning, Edward Zlotkowski asserts: “It is in the swampy lowlands of real world experiences that real complexity resides. The academy’s problems, in contrast, are the manageable ones.”  The author traces developments in service learning over recent years, particularly those documented in a series of volumes by the American Association for Higher Education. He states that “ As a subset of experiential education, service learning naturally provides faculty with a variety of ways to engage students in the learning process”. He draws a distinction between academic service learning and traditional community service. See

The training that PhD students receive is not what many of them want, and it does not prepare them for the jobs they eventually take, according to a new survey. As reported in the Chronicle by Scott Smallwood, the survey sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts the survey indicates that complaints center on such factors as lack of career advice and unclear requirements. The survey of more than 4000 doctoral students at 27 universities found a three way mismatch among the purpose of doctoral education, the aspirations of students, and the realities of their careers. Students find that doctoral education is ‘unnecessarily mysterious’ – keeping them unclear about how their course work applies, how much time they will spend with their advisor, or who will pay for their dissertation work. See The full report on the survey is available at

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation has announced a project to increase the impact of the PhD by turning the findings of recent studies of doctoral education into concrete reforms. According to an article in the Chronicle by Scott Smallwood, the Responsive PhD project plans to give universities examples of how to respond to calls for reforming doctoral education. Project organizers plan to promote practices that encourage students to think in more interdisciplinary terms in their graduate work and develop bold career options. See

The U.S. is not turning out enough scientists and engineers to make discoveries that will pay off in 50 years, according to Professor Paul Romer of Stanford University. As described in an article on the front page of the 25 January 2001 Wall Street Journal, Romer says that colleges discourage undergraduates from majoring in science and engineering by making courses much harder than other fields, and by relegating undergraduate teaching in such fields to graduate students. He is taking his message to Washington and is proposing a scheme to correct the situation. He proposes a federal program to change the incentives – dangle $10,000 a head to colleges that increase their output of undergraduate science and engineering majors; and offer 100,000 promising high school students a $20,000 a year fellowship if they go into graduate study in these fields. See

Eastern Illinois University is offering a study abroad program in Egypt, focused on the Toshka Project which is creating a new valley for the Nile River in the western desert of Egypt. The three credit course in early June will allow students to meet the project’s engineers and officials, and to study its far reaching effects. It will also include visits to classic sites in Egypt. Open to undergraduate and graduate students, the course enrollment deadline is February 15th. See http://www/

For an interesting personal account of a rewarding study abroad experience, see an article in the Winter 2001 Bent of Tau Beta Pi by Emily Hackett: “My First Semester as a Graduate Student in Beijing – An Engineer Abroad”. The author describes how she successfully took classes alongside Chinese classmates and integrated herself into their academic system and culture with only four semesters of Mandarin as language preparation. Her study in China was funded by an NSF graduate research fellowship. See


Japanese students are using cellular phones to send and receive e-mails so heavily that even class time is not sacred. According to an article by Alan Brender in the Chronicle, 90% of Japanese students own cellular phones capable of sending e-mails, and 65% of 915 students at seven universities surveyed by a faculty member admit to having sent or received at least one e-mail message during class. Each e-mail costs only about 3 cents, but the huge volume – sometimes over 100 messages a day – adds up to significant costs. Some universities are developing other uses for this technology, such as advising students of canceled classes and nagging those behind in tuition payments. See

Personal computer sales may have slowed, but the U.S. market for hand held computers doubled to more that $1 billion last year. Writing in the 25 January 2001 issue of the Wall Street Journal, Pui-Wing Tam reports that  manufacturers sold 3.5 million of the devices – variously called organizers, pocket PCs, and personal digital assistants – in 2000. Over that year the cost of such units dropped 11% to $294, suggesting pressure on manufacturers profit margins. In sharp contrast, U.S. PC sales grew only 10% in 2000. See

At a recent Ubiquitous Computing Conference, some universities that require students to own laptops reported that they have fostered better communication and collaboration, which in turn have enhanced teaching and learning. According to Florence Olsen writing in the Chronicle, other universities are not so sure, and ask for research to quantitatively show whether using laptops is better for students than teaching without them. The cost to students of requiring a laptop is of concern, and some universities have found ways to spread out payments to ease the burden on parents. Providing reliable computer support and maintenance is essential to the success of any mandatory computing program. See

The goal of seamlessly combining the analog world with user friendly computing, to handle most aspects of daily life, is becoming one of the computer industry’s hottest priorities. Writing in the January/February 2110 Technology Review, Robert Buderi notes that IBM has committed nearly $500 million over the next 5 years to study ‘pervasive computing’, and other companies are not far behind. Three broad frameworks define the current efforts: 24 hour availability of computing power every day; wireless networks and devices; and software to work behind the scenes to keep humans from having to be bothered with details. For news on pervasive computing, see

The theme of the January 2001 issue of IEEE Spectrum is ‘Always On – living in a networked world’. In reviewing the current state of networking, Spectrum notes: “The Net’s exploding growth reveals its flaws – like sluggish last-mile data rates and whimsical wireless delivery – and spotlights key management, security, and regulatory issues”. Articles include: ‘Optical networks brace for even heavier traffic’, ‘Let’s not go broke repaving the last mile’, ‘Keeping the Net up’, and ‘Comprehensive testing maximizes a site’s value’. See

Telecommuting, hyped as one of the big trends of the last decade, is now having its worth doubted by some employers. According to an article in the LA Times, a recent survey found that 62% of the 648 employers polled said that they would hire fewer teleworkers in the future. Managers say that teleworkers are more difficult to monitor in terms of productivity, and that office-based workers tend to resent their home-based colleagues. In another survey, 34.6% of managers were concerned about legal and risk management issues associated with teleworking. However, the International Telework Association and Council believes that negative feedback come from employers who are not committed enough to the concept to have thought the whole process through effectively. See

After 17 years of planning, dozens of reviews and redesigns, and billions of dollars, the U.S. scientific centerpiece of the international space station is ready to open its hatches for business. Writing in the 19 January 2000 issue of Science, Andrew Lawler describes the 8.5-meter long aluminum vessel which is ready for launch from the Kennedy Space Center next month. About 120 researchers have already been chosen to conduct experiments in the lab, but until the space station assembly is completed in 2006 the lab will mostly be used as a staging area. With more room, bigger crew, more computer and electrical power than the Russian Mir, the new lab is expected to serve as a new paradigm for research in space for at least a decade. See

Distance education

A Canadian task force has been named to advise the government on how to guarantee that distance education and other broadband network services are within the reach of all Canadian citizens. According to an article by Florence Olsen in the Chronicle, the government wants Canadians to receive the higher education and health care benefits that universal broadband service would make possible, with a target date of 2004. The task force will try to identify the technical, political, and fiscal barriers to providing universal broadband service, and will advise the government on its role in overcoming those obstacles. See

Educators fear that a proposal to help accommodate new Web-surfing cell phones and other hand held devices could displace instructional television operations at more than a thousand schools. The Federal Communications Commission is to select a preferred band of spectrum for third generation services, and the spectrum now used for Instructional Television Fixed Service is being considered for reallocation. Large corporations such as Sprint and Worldcom are looking to negotiate leases to accommodate these new services. See

The Congressional Web-Based Education Commission has issued its final report, calling on Congress to recognize the crucial role the Internet can play in education and to help remove some of the barriers that are blocking widespread use of the Web in education.. According to an article in the 9 January 2001 issue of Higher Education Technology News, the report calls on the government, industry and the education community to cooperate and enact a seven point agenda. Included in the agenda: make powerful new Internet resources, especially broadband access, widely and equitably available and affordable for all learners; provide continuous and relevant training and support for educators and administrators at all levels; build a new research and development framework around learning in the Internet age; develop quality online educational content that meets the highest standards of educational excellence; revise outdated regulations that impede innovation and replace them with approaches that embrace anywhere, anytime, any-pace learning; protect online learners and ensure their privacy; and sustain funding via traditional and new sources adequate to the challenge at hand. The report is available at

In a report sent to Congress this month, the U.S. Department of Education said that a lack of flexibility in financial aid regulations hurts the advancement of distance education programs. Writing in the Chronicle, Dan Carnevale reports that rules originally written to protect fraud – such as one that prevents institutions offering more than 50% of their courses at a distance from providing federal student aid – are inhibiting. The report does not make specific recommendations about what Congress should do, but does provide evidence that rules need to be permanently changed. See

Hoping to present a united front against the onslaught of technology companies offering distance education products and partnerships, four state universities have formed an alliance to share information and make joint technology purchases. According to an article by Jeffrey Young in the Chronicle, the partnership is informal, and includes the University of California at Berkeley, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Washington, and the University of Wisconsin. The focus of collaboration will be in four areas: marketing, technical issues, student services, and faculty relations. See

Public colleges and universities in Colorado will cooperate in sharing and developing online courses jointly in an effort to keep the state’s distance education programs competitive with the rest of the country, according to an article by Dan Carnevale in the Chronicle. In a plan approved by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, all 28 of the state’s public institutions will collaborate in developing a catalog of all of their online courses and creating reciprocity agreements. Students will be able to take courses from any of the institutions and accumulate the credit in the colleges in which they are enrolled. Some 15 other states have created similar collaborative groups. See


The current issue of the International Journal of Engineering Education (Volume 17, Number 1, 2001)  is a special issue on Learning Styles, edited by Terrance O’Brien. Two general themes are covered in the several articles in the journal: innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and student achievement and attitude toward instruction. The primary impetus for this special issue was the awareness that considerable research on student learning is being conducted both inside and beyond the field of engineering education, much of which has meaningful implications for engineering education. See

The Winter 2000-01 edition of Issues in Science and Technology has several theme articles on Transportation Safety, with emphasis on the automobile. Articles include: ‘Using safety labels to make cars safer’, ‘Civilizing the sport utility vehicle’, ‘Too old to drive’,  ‘Auto safety and human adaptation’, ‘Improving air safety – long term challenges’, and ‘Real numbers’. See

Positions of possible interest

From the 26 January 2001 Chronicle of Higher Education:

Ø      Dean, School of Engineering, Purdue University, IN

Ø      Canada Research Chairs (2000 chairs by the year 2005)

Ø      Dean, Engineering and Mines, University of North Dakota – Grand Forks

Ø      Dean, College of Engineering, Cornell University, NY

Ø      VPAA, Arkansas State University

Ø      VPAA, Southern Polytechnic State University, GA

Ø      Provost and VP, Alfred University, NY

Ø      VPAA, SUNY Albany, NY

Ø      Provost, University of Vermont

Ø      President, Stephen F. Austin State University, TX

Ø      President, Utah System of Higher Education

From the 19 January 2001 Chronicle:

Ø      Dean, School of Engineering, University of Alabama – Birmingham

Ø      Industrial Engineering Faculty Positions, American University of Armenia

Ø      Dean of Engineering, University of New Mexico – Albuquerque

Ø      Dean, Graduate College, University of Iowa

Ø      VPAA, University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign

Ø      Provost and VPAA, Montana State University

Ø      Dean, College of Computing Sciences, New Jersey Institute of Technology

Ø      Dean, Graduate College, Oklahoma State University

Ø      VP Research, Clemson University, SC

Ø      President, Arizona Board of Regents

Ø      President, Tennessee Board of Regents

Ø      President, Texas State University System


From the February 2001 ASEE Prism:

Ø      Dean, College of Engineering and Technology, California State University, Los Angeles

Ø      Department Head, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of Arizona – Tucson

Ø      Chair, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Marquette University, WI

Ø      Chair, Department of Engineering, Old Dominion University, VA

Ø      Chair, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan

Ø      Dean, University of Alabama – Birmingham

Ø      Head, Chemical Engineering, University of Minnesota – Duluth



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