August 2004

Copyright © 2004 World Expertise LLC – All rights reserved

A periodic electronic newsletter for engineering education leaders,

edited by Russel C. Jones, Ph.D., P.E., and Bethany S. Oberst, Ph.D.


1 - International developments

2 - US developments

  3 - Distance education, technology

  4 - Students, faculty, education

5 – Employment

  6 – Journals

  7 – Meetings




1 - International developments

WTO accord reached – The World Trade Organization, reviving talks that collapsed 10 months ago in Cancun , has reached compromise agreements on global trade that could translate into far reaching changes in farm policies and reduced trade barriers around the world. According to an article in the August 1st Washington Post by Paul Blustein, representatives of the WTO’s 147 member nations agreed on a framework setting the parameters for completing the Doha Round of negotiations. The earlier negotiations had stalled when a group of developing countries, led by Brazil and India , squared off against the United States and the European Union over farm subsidies and other issues. Under the deal struck in the new negotiations, wealthy nations would cut their subsidies to farmers, especially payments that tend to lead to gluts in supply on world markets. Such subsidies have been condemned for depressing global crop prices and robbing farmers in poor nations of their livelihoods. (See 

UK plans large increase in research – Science and technology research in the UK is scheduled to receive a large boost in funding in 2007, according to Tim Radford, science editor of The Guardian, in an article on July 13.  A growth rate of funding amounting to 5.8% is part of a new science and innovation investment framework, with a total of about £5.36 billion distributed to the national research councils, universities, science teachers, and medical research facilities.  Representatives of the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics , among others, point out that such an investment will only begin to achieve the progress needed to keep UK science internationally competitive.  (See

Renaissance for Russian science – Student enrollments in engineering, mathematics and science are up in Russia , and multinationals are chasing the graduates. According to an article in the August 9th Business Week, Russia is graduating more than 200,000 students per year in these fields, despite an emerging market economy that still suffers from widespread poverty. Although state funding for scientific research and education plummeted with the collapse of the Soviet Union , and many of Russia ’s best and brightest left the country for higher paying jobs abroad, Russia ’s universities and research institutes are slowly adapting to the market economy by tapping private funding and research contracts. For now, at least, Russians young and old continue to wow the world with their scientific and mathematical talent. (See

UK and US governments urged to support open-access to research results – Both the British and the US governments have been urged by legislators to require that results of government-funded research be made available free of charge in on-line archives.  The British Parliament went a step further and also recommended that journals develop a model in which authors would pay to publish their articles and subscription fees would be eliminated.  The bill passed by the US Congress specifically references research funded by the National Institutes of Health, while the British reference all government funding agencies.  Still at issue are timeframes for posting of articles, and concerns remain about the effect of such a system on peer review standards and the impact on the learned societies which rely on subscription fees for survival, according to Andrea L. Foster and Lila Guterman, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Scientific publishers, which came in for criticism on both sides of the Atlantic for their escalating subscription prices, are unhappy.  (See

Poll shows growing Arab rancor at US – Arab views of the United States , shaped largely by the Iraq War and a post September 11 climate of fear, have worsened in the past two years. Surveys conducted in June, and reported on in the July 23rd Washington Post by Dafna Linzer, polled Arab men and women in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. In Egypt , an important US ally in the region, nearly 100% of the population now holds an unfavorable opinion of the country. There is a growing sympathy with al Qaeda coupled with that resentment of the US . Comparing recent surveys, in 2002 the single policy issue that drove Arab opinion was the Palestinians; now it is Iraq and America ’s treatment of Arabs and Muslims in the US and abroad. (See

German universities urged to think carefully about US higher ed model – Thomas John Hochstettler, an American who was until recently the vice president for academic affairs at the International University Bremen , wrote a long piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, arguing for the transformation of Germany higher education, but against wholesale and unthinking adoption of an American model.  He cites the serious decline in quality in German institutions, demonstrated by the number of students and faculty who have left Germany for the US , and the serious drop in government support on a per student basis.  But Hochstettler points out significant differences between the US and German education systems which make blind emulation unwise. For example, US higher education is expected to play a significant role in the maturation process of young people, which is not the case in Germany .  Liberal learning takes place in secondary schools in Germany , and is not left to the undergraduate years as in the US .  Mainly, however, Hochstettler faults proposed changes in the German higher education system for lacking intellectual coherence or a pedagogical rationale.  The author recommends that German universities be encouraged to change along lines that permit them to retain their distinctive strengths, but not be permitted to charge tuition across the board, nor to rely too much on alumni donations to fund on-going programs.  (See

Nations collaborate to take planet’s pulse – The Global Earth Observation System of Systems, which has nearly 50 countries as participants, is an ambitious attempt by governments, industry and scientists to launch a network that will continuously monitor the globe’s land, sea and air. As described by Juliet Eilperin in the July 26th Washington Post, the system could transform the way farmers plant their crops, sailors plot their voyages, and doctors work to prevent the spread of disease. Initially the system would link data from 10,000 manned and automated weather stations, 1,000 buoys, and 100,000 daily observations by 7,000 ships and 3,000 aircraft. Ultimately it would also collect information from myriad other sources, such as satellites monitoring ground and air movements, and feed all the information into computers which would process it. The payoff will come from such things as better drought prediction, cost savings from ships which ply more efficient routes, and the easing of humanitarian and health crises. (See  

European worker benefits begin to erode – Americans who have idealized the Western European work style, including shorter workweeks, richer benefits and longer vacations, may have to reconsider.  A July 27 article in USA Today, authored by Noelle Knox, warns that that pattern may swiftly disappear, based on recent decisions by four large European companies to restructure their compacts with workers because of cost-cutting pressures.  Siemens, Thomas Cook, DaimlerChrysler and Robert Bosch all recently moved to increase work hours while holding wages steady or deferring planned raises.  This has not occurred without bitter disputes with labor unions, but the May 1 expansion of the European Union to include low-wage countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic made management threats of near-shoring a distinct reality: workers by and large voted to accept the new arrangements in order to retain their jobs.  An OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) report describes the complex interplay between wages, productivity and quality of life.  In many EU countries worker productivity is about equal to that of US workers.  While the average European works about a third less time, that same worker receives about one third less in salary.  So the trade-off is clear: do you work to live or live to work?  The answer is being shaped by the current 8% average unemployment rate in Europe and the threat of accelerated job migration to the east. (See

Venezuelan engineering students at center of political activity – The school of engineering at Venezuelan Central University has been the center of political activity against the government of President Hugo Chávez since 2001.  And today, students and administrators there are outspoken in their complaints about the newly established Bolivarian University . The Chávez government has funneled significant money into it, claiming that established universities such as VCU are elitist institutions which have neglected their obligations to educate the poor.  Mike Ceaser, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, described the Bolivarian University ’s curriculum, which now offers three majors, in social communication, environmental management, and management of local development, with an eye toward adding majors in petroleum engineering, law and medicine.  This is part of President Chávez’s commitment to steering higher education toward teaching the poor and supporting the development of his desperately impoverished country.  Critics of this approach, including VCU engineering students, say that the money spent on creating the new universities would be better spent on improving the weak system of primary and secondary schools, which often fail to prepare students ready to undertaken university studies.  And critics also point to evidence which they say proves that the new universities are centers for indoctrinating students for pro-government political action.  On August 15 President Chávez will be subjected to a recall vote: if he is ousted from office, his opponents vow to close the Bolivarian University . (See

Engineers focus on capacity building at WFEO meeting – Engineers have long contributed to efforts to alleviate poverty in developing countries through the design and construction of basic infrastructure and other projects of key importance to economic development. Now, as described in an article by Jay Landers in the July ASCE News, engineers and others are increasingly turning to technical capacity building in developing countries – creating the human, institutional and infrastructure resources needed to allow them to fashion their own stable economies, governments, and critical institutions. A June planning conference of the Committee on Capacity Building of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations focused on what the global engineering profession could and should do in enhancing capacity building in developing countries. The aim of capacity building effort is the creation of a solid base of technologically prepared people in developing countries, which would confer three advantages: attracting investments from multinational companies, assisting in making the most of foreign aid projects, and providing a basis for business development by local entrepreneurs. (See


2 - US developments

Large cuts predicted for US science and technology funding agencies – The 2005 funding for both the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will be cut, by 2% and 1.5% respectively, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Kelly Field. The overall US budget deficit was blamed for the cuts.  In 2002 Congress authorized $7.4 billion for NSF, which included $5.5 billion for research.  This recent decision would leave only $4.2 billion for research.  The Math and Science Partnership would be hard hit, losing $56.7 million from its 2004 budget.  NASA’s new budget, while reduced, contained funding for Administration-backed projects for space-shuttle operations and a Mars program.  (See

Bush and Kerry on technology issues – Both President George Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry like to portray themselves as highly attentive to America’s high tech future, according to an article by Barton Reppert in IEEE-USA Today’s Engineer. Both candidates view technology as key to bolstering the global competitiveness of the US economy, as well as contributing substantially to national defense, the war against terrorism, homeland security, energy development, environmental protection, health care, transportation and other sectors. But Bush and Kerry differ significantly on specific government programs and initiatives needed to help reap maximum benefits from advanced technology. In the R&D funding area, Bush is proposing steep cuts in most nondefense agencies while Kerry would increase support for physical sciences and engineering research for agencies such as NSF and NIST. Both candidates support nanotechnology development, and both support making the research and experimentation tax credit permanent. Bush would zero out funding for the Advanced Technology program, while Kerry would continue its funding. With regard to offshoring, Bush says that concerns are exaggerated, while Kerry opposes large-scale outsourcing of work abroad. Both candidates support math and science partnership programs between schools and the private sector to lead to a more technically prepared workforce. (See   

Bush challenged by scientists – The Bush administration is being criticized for its use of information on divisive scientific issues, according to an article by Antonio Regalado in the July 15th Wall Street Journal. Some leaders in the scientific community are mounting a political campaign to unseat President Bush this fall, accusing the administration of twisting scientific facts to fit its policies on issues such as global warming, sex education, and stem-cell research. The Bush campaign has a different perspective, however, and will be talking about the Bush administration’s record of support for science and research – including hydrogen fuels, nanotechnology, and medical research. The increased political activity among scientists comes against a backdrop of worry that the US is losing its technological pre-eminence to foreign competitors. (See In a similar vein, a note by Andrew Lawler and Jocelyn Kaiser in the July 16th Science reports charges that the Bush administration has rejected candidates for scientific advisory panels whose views were not sympathetic with the White House’s. (See

Engineering must adapt to maintain leadership – A report published this spring by the US National Academy of Engineering warns that the engineering profession must adopt a new vision for its future to ensure that engineers are broadly educated, assume leadership positions in the public and private sectors, and represent all segments of society. The report, “The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century”, is described in an article in the July ASCE News. The report considers which skills engineers of the future are likely to need by considering several scenarios – for instance, one where new breakthroughs in biotechnology, natural disasters triggered by climate change, and global conflicts arising from an imbalance in resources could affect the world of 2020 in dramatic ways. By then, engineers will have to be prepared to accommodate new social, economic, legal and political factors when planning projects. The report suggests that the engineering profession must 1) agree on an exciting vision for the future, 2) transform engineering education to help achieve that vision, 3) build a clear image of the new roles for engineers as broad-based technology leaders, 4) accommodate innovative developments from nonengineering fields, and 5) focus the energies of the various disciplines of engineering toward common goals. Copies of the report may be obtained at (See

Harvard returns controversial UAE gift – Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates , asked Harvard University to returns his gift of $2.5 million, and the university readily complied. The gift was originally given in 2000 to the Divinity School to fund a professorship in Islamic religious studies, but had never been spent because of the President’s support for a center in the UAE which presented speakers with anti-Semitic and anti-American ideas.  That center was closed in 2003 by order of the President. Rachel Fish, a former student at the Divinity School who led the protest against acceptance of the gift, has urged other schools who have received money from the UAE to reconsider, according to Erin Strout writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

Engineering grads earn larger starting salaries in 2004 – The US-based National Association of Colleges and Employers released the results of a survey which indicated that hiring of the class of 2004 was up by 11.2%, and that starting salaries for college graduates were up as well.  An article published on on July 27 indicates that while engineering graduates are earning the most money, business majors are doing well, too, and even liberal arts graduates are earning 2.6% more than their counterparts of the previous year.  The surprising news was that nurses, who are so much in demand, are being hired at 1.9% less on the average than last year’s graduates, according to reporter Deshundra Jefferson. (See

US grants extension to grace period for H-1B visas – On October 1, a new quota of H-1B visas will be made available by the US government. These visas cover people with specialized skills that are in high demand by businesses. (Academic employees are not included in this allocation.) The current year’s H-1B quota was reached in February, thus leaving some 18,000 foreign students and scholars already in the US who want to switch their status to H-1B with the prospect of having to return home then turning around and coming back within a few months.  To solve the problem, the US government recently extended the usual 30 – 60 day “grace period,” thus permitting a cohort of people to remain in the States until their new visas can be granted.  This is the first time such an extension has been made, according to Kelly Field writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

Expanded Space Station research planned – NASA has finished its plans for completing the International Space Station by the end of the decade, according to an article by Warren Leary in the July 18th New York Times. Among other revisions, the plans call for expanding the size and use of the United States ’ Destiny science module aboard the station to do as much research as possible, with as many as six astronauts working there, up from the current limit of three. The plans are being reviewed with other governments involved in the Station – Russia , Japan and the European Union. (See


3 - Distance education, technology

IBM puts code in public domain – In a competitive move, IBM is donating more than half a million lines of its software code to an open source software group. According to an article by Steve Lohr in the August 3rd New York Times, IBM is making the code contribution – valued at $85-million – to try to make it easier and more appealing for software developers to write applications in Java. Since IBM is one of the leading supporters of the Java technology, originally developed by Sun Microsystems, it hopes to develop more potential users for its platform that runs and manages such applications. The IBM move is further evidence of its support for open source software; its biggest commitment to date has been to Linux, an alternative to the operating systems of its two leading rivals – Microsoft and Sun Microsystems. (See

Instructional technology’s direct learning benefits lag – The US-based Educause Center for Applied Research this year conducted a survey of first and fourth year students at various types of colleges asking them about the benefits of technology in the learning process.  While 76.1% of the respondents praised their experience with course management systems, 48.5% said that the biggest advantage of instructional technology was convenience, leading to the conclusion that IT has not yet revolutionized the teaching-learning process as much as had been predicted.  Students were mostly centrist in their preference for IT: 41.2% said they preferred “moderate use of IT,” while 31% wanted “extensive IT,” and 22.7% wanted “limited IT.”  Richard N. Katz, a vice president at Educause, noted what he believes is a preference among young people for technology in their personal lives, but an expectation that education will be about more than technology.  Students were also critical of their instructors’ command of technology, noting in particular the bad use of Power Point slides (reading the slides rather than lecturing from them), according to Jeffrey R. Young, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

Wi-Fi expands its reach – Wi-Fi hot spots available to the public will more than double at American airports this year, to 379 from 178 in 2003. The overall number of public hot spots in the US already surpasses 10,000, according to an article by Jane Levere in the July 27th New York Times, and is likely to reach 65,000 by 2008. Hot spots in hotels, cafes and restaurants are popular, but most extensive use is at airports where the concentration of laptops is high. Cost is an issue for users, as is security of e-mail transmissions. (See

Toy teaches health in Afghanistan A high tech toy, “LeapPad”, is doing double duty as a learning device on health issues for rural Afghan women. According to an article by Queena Sook Kim in the August 8th Wall Street Journal, the educational toy designed to teach reading to children in the US will be used to educate illiterate women in Afghanistan about the benefits of immunization, the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, and the perils of some homespun remedies such as rubbing dirt in wounds to heal them. In its normal child application, the unit recites out loud to kids when they touch the words on a page; in the Afghan version the users will touch colorful pictures showing village scenes and characters to trigger recorded speech in their language. The project is being driven by US Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson; HHS has purchased 20,000 LeapPads in a $1.25-million deal. (See

US government reshaping airport screening system – The government is backing away from a plan to use commercial databases in its computerized system for determining which airline passengers might pose a security risk, according to an article in the July 16th New York Times by Matthew Wald. But it is pressing ahead with a new computer based system that will rely on government databases. The goal is a better screening tool that will select about 4% of all passengers for more intense scrutiny, compared with the 14% identified by the current system – which selects passengers on the basis of criteria such as last minute or cash ticket purchases and one way tickets. The government already has a small “no-fly” list, and a larger list of people who are to be put through secondary screening if they seek to fly. Those two lists are thought to have fewer than 10,000 names, but the new computer system would integrate a list of names that is dramatically larger. (See

Your medical history on a microchip – The current archaic system of paper medical records makes it unlikely that your medical records would be available in a timely way after a car accident or a heart attack. According to an article in the July 27th Wall Street Journal by Laura Landro, the federal government plans to create a vast new information system for patients and to provide incentives for physicians to adopt electronic records. Unresolved are questions about who would pay for the new technology and how much information will be shared. In the meantime, a number of new tools and services are making it possible for consumers to create and share their own medical records – from emergency wallet cards printed off the web to portable gadgets that store a family’s entire medical history on a microchip. (See

Space for technology startups – A new nonprofit complex is providing “incubator” space for emerging technology companies in North Brunswick , New Jersey . According to an article in the August 4th New York Times, the Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies offers space in a modern facility at attractive rents. The center is on the 50-acre campus of the Technology Center of New Jersey, a state supported collection of research and production facilities with 380,000 square feet in six buildings. The incubator can provide space to startups that need smaller quarters than commercial developers are willing to provide, and it is willing to build labs for small users. As the economic recovery gathers strength, the competition for start-up companies is expected to intensify. In another development, the state of New Jersey and Rutgers University have started to erect a 100,000 square foot building in a technology center on the Camden waterfront. (See

Hands-free cellphones raise safety concerns – Several states are requiring drivers to use hands-free devices when talking on cellphones in their cars. After initially fighting such laws, the nation’s cellphone carriers are joining with car makers to promote the voluntary use of headsets to address concerns about the safety of talking on the phone while driving. But, according to an article by Jesse Drucker and Karen Lundegaard in the July 19th Wall Street Journal, new research at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and others suggests that hands-free devices may actually add to the overall risk. A sizeable body of research concludes that headsets and speaker phones do not improve safety because it is the mental distraction of talking on the phone not holding it, that causes the danger while driving. And recent research suggests that hands-free devices could actually increase the risk by encouraging people to spend more time on their cellphones and drive faster while doing so. American drivers currently spend a billion minutes a day talking on their cellular phones, an estimated 40% of all cellular minutes. (See

Bar code adds digit – The humble bar code, ignored by shoppers and indecipherable to humans, is joining the forced march to globalization. According to an article in the July 12th Wall Street Journal by Steve Lohr, Europe has won a battle to set a global bar code standard that has 13 digits, one more than the 12 used by the 30-year old US system. Barcodes allow faster, more efficient checkout processes and instantaneous inventory and sales data. The Europeans pushed for the longer format in order to handle country of origin information. For American retailers, conforming to the new 13-digit standard requires retooling software programs. There is some question about how bar code technology will fare now that new generation radio frequency identification tags , which can transmit far more data, are arriving on the scene. (See

GWU students will get free tunes – George Washington University this fall will become one of a small number of colleges to attempt a novel solution to the problem of students illegally downloading music from the Internet. According to an article by Amy Argetsinger in the July 17th Washington Post, the university is going to give them music legally, for free. Through a deal with Napster, some 7100 students living in campus residence halls will be able to access hundreds of thousands of songs over the university’s high-speed network. The Napster solution was first tried early this year in pilot programs at Penn State and the University of Rochester , and Napster is currently negotiating agreements with five other colleges. (See

Delete bathwater, undelete baby – In a lengthy review article in the August 5th New York Times, Katie Hafner reviews the current status of spam versus filters. The best current filters, based on Bayesian scoring, can trap 97% of spam e-mails. But even the best filters often trap legitimate messages, requiring users to sort through lists to retrieve the few good ones. Filters applied at the organizational level rather than on individual pc’s do not allow such reviews, causing occasional communication problems. And spammers are quick to find their way around new filters, sometimes taking as little as five minutes to adapt to a change. (See


4 - Students, faculty, education

China ’s MIT upgrades itself – Tsinghua University , long known as China ’s MIT, is getting a makeover as the Chinese government seeks to create a university to match its global ambitions and produce graduates to compete in its market economy. Writing in the July 28th Wall Street Journal, Philip Tinari reports that Tsinghua is transforming itself from a socialist-style polytechnic into a first-rate world university. Tsinghua resembles an American university in many ways: aggressive poaching of star faculty from around the world, fund raising, infrastructure building, and curricular reform. While students still take courses in Marxist philosophy and Mao Zedong thought, professors there note that Tsinghua’s relatively open atmosphere allows them to research and teach on sensitive social problems such as AIDS, population control, and unemployment. China ’s top universities – Tsinghua, Peking University and Fudan University – are best able to transform themselves, and although other universities may lack the resources of these top schools the changes there serve as a political green light for others seeking to emulate them. While Tsinghua was founded in 1911 to prepare Chinese students to attend US colleges, it now is strong enough to attract graduate students who even a decade ago would have looked abroad. (See 

Engineering schools abrim with talent – Although the coursework is hard and the job market iffy, more US students are enrolled in engineering graduate school than ever before. Writing in the July 16th EETimes, Colin Johnson cites a new report from NSF that puts the number of such students at almost half a million in 2002, surpassing the previous peak achieved in 1993 by five percent. Demographics partially explain the uptick, following trends in the total US college-age population. But in fields like electrical and biomedical engineering, which jumped 10.7% and 20.3% respectively, the rises reflect the student’s practical eye for interesting employment opportunities. Partially due to 9/11 fallout, first time enrollments of foreign students in science and engineering were reported to be down 7.9%; but first time graduate enrollment increased by almost 14% for US citizens and permanent residents. (See  A similar article in the July 9th Science attributes the increase in graduate students in science and engineering to the weak economy and higher stipends. (See

US college tuition will rise, but actual cost expected to remain the same – The bad news is that on the average, college tuition in both public and private colleges and universities in the US will rise this coming year.  The good news, according to a July 9 article posted on, is that because of increased financial aid, the actual price paid for tuition will remain about the same.  Increases are attributed to higher costs over which the institutions have no control, such as employee health insurance and periodical subscriptions, and to stagnant endowment income.  (See

More US college students studying Arabic, report reveals – Richard Brecht, executive director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Language, threw cold water on any optimism that might arise from a report that college enrollment in Arab language courses doubled in the US between 1998 and 2002, from roughly 5,000 to 10,000.  He pointed out that assuming only one in ten of those students will achieve working proficiency, that gives the country only 1,000 more people to fill an overwhelming demand for such talent.  Brecht recommends that the Federal government fund programs starting at the elementary and secondary levels, according to an article appearing on July 11 on  (See

First Lady to serve as honorary chair for women engineers project --  Laura Bush will serve as honorary chair of the advisory committee of the Extraordinary Women Engineers Project, according to an article in the July ASCE News. In a White House announcement, she applauded the project for inspiring young women to be engineers and for promoting diversity within the engineering profession. The EWSP was established in March by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Association of Engineering Societies, and the Society of Women Engineers – with the support of the National Academy of Engineering. It is also supported by a coalition of other engineering organizations. The project was developed to address several issues: fewer than 10% of the nation’s engineers are women; girls do not lag behind boys in grades or test scores in math or science but relatively few select engineering as a career; and by the eighth grade twice as many boys as girls are interested in science or engineering careers. The EWEP steering committee is chaired by Patricia Galloway, currently president of ASCE. (See

Computer programs evaluating essays – More than 2-million essays have been scored by e-rater since it was adopted for the GMAT in 1999, and the technology is now being considered for the Graduate Record Exam and TOEFL. According to an article by Jay Mathews in the August 1st Washington Post, testing experts predict that machines will eventually help grade the SAT and ACT, which will add writing sections to their 2005 college admissions tests, because computer scoring costs less and provides results faster than human scoring. In the GMAT, which previously had a team of readers score essays, just one human grader’s judgment is compared with the computer’s conclusion. Critics are not convinced that computers cannot replace human readers in evaluating style and cogency. Only on personal essays for college applications do educators seem to be taking a hard line against computer scoring. (See

US board declares grad student unions illegal at private universities – The US National Labor Relations Board recently overturned its year 2000 ruling by declaring that graduate students at private universities do not have the right to create labor unions, thus reversing several years of intense activity by unions on campuses.  In 2000 the five member board, with a Democrat majority, had supported the right of New York University graduate students to organize.  In 2004, the board, with a Republican majority, took on a case from Brown University and came down on the side of university administrations, which have long contended that graduate students are not employees.  Union representatives, reacting to the ruling, were outraged and vowed to continue their struggle to organize the students, writes Scott Smallwood for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

Fewer grants force younger scientists to leave academia – As the competition for government grants gets tighter, younger scientists are increasingly quitting academia, according to an article by Bernard Wysocki in the July 27th Wall Street Journal. In addition to being cheap labor for universities, fresh Ph.D.s are important for another reason: often they have the most original ideas. The trend of departures is particularly noticeable in biomedical research, where grant funding has gotten tight due to stagnant NIH budgets. (See

Title IX used to combat gender discrimination in engineering programs – Two members of the US Senate, Barbara Boxer and Ron Wyden, asked the Government Accountability Office to prepare a report on how successfully the government was using Title IX to prevent discrimination against women in science, engineering and mathematics. The report points to the National Science Foundation, the Energy Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as not doing enough to enforce compliance with Title IX by colleges and universities which receive their funds.  While Title IX is known as an effective tool for increasing women’s participation in sports, it is less known to have academic applications as well.  The report recommends that the three agencies act more aggressively to insure compliance by conducting site visits and otherwise monitoring the actions of grant recipients.  Piper Fogg wrote this article for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

Missed opportunities – The lead article in the July/August Change discusses affordability as a challenge to access to higher education. Author Brian Fitzgerald notes that nearly 40 years ago federal and state governments created a system of higher education that would enable the Baby Boom generation to enroll in college in historic numbers. Student aid programs – especially grants – have provided unprecedented opportunity for low- and moderate-income families and ensured that any qualified student would have access to higher education regardless of family economic circumstances. As a result, millions of students who would not otherwise have been able to enroll and attain degrees have done so – which in turn has propelled unparalleled economic growth in the late 20th century. But the writer says that the situation has changed: rising financial barriers now limit college opportunity for low- and moderate-income families. He examines the policy drift that has produced these barriers, the implications of these trends for our economy and society, and what might be done to address these problems. (See


5 – Employment

Off-shoring an economic benefit to US, but detracts from German economy – A July 15 article in The Economist explains why off-shoring seems to be beneficial overall to the US economy, while creating a loss to the German economy.  According to the McKinsey Global Institute, for every dollar sent offshore, $1.13 of new wealth is generated in the US economy.  In Germany , for every euro off-shored, the German economy suffers a 20 cent loss.  Reasons for this include the fact that the US generally off-shores to India, where the labor costs are lower, while Germany still off-shores a significant number of jobs to Eastern Europe, where wages are higher than in India.  Another factor is that the salaries paid to workers in India are frequently spent on US-made goods, which are more attractive than German goods.  But the biggest factor is that German workers who lose their jobs to off-shoring find it more difficult to become re-employed, due to more restrictive labor laws which are disincentives to employers’ hiring.  70% of US workers fired as a result of off-shoring are working again within six months, while only 40% of Germans find work again in the same timeframe.  (See

IBM to offshore less – Adopting new policies to take some of the sting out of job offshoring, IBM expects to lay off fewer US employees this year because of work being transferred overseas. According to William Bulkeley, writing in the July 29th   Wall Street Journal, the company became a lightening rod for critics of offshoring earlier this year after internal documents revealed plans to send nearly 5000 jobs to India, Brazil and other developing countries in order to save on labor costs. Now the company has adopted new internal-transfer policies aimed at filling more open positions at IBM with employees who would otherwise get a pink slip due to offshoring. With the economy starting to recover, IBM is increasing employment for the first time in three years. The company says it expects the new policy will save money overall by reducing the costs associated with hiring and firing. (See

Combating offshoring backlash – Late last year, after a deluge of customer complaints about unintelligible English, lengthy telephone waits, and poor service, Dell Inc. rerouted technical support for its US corporate clients from a call center in India to facilities in Texas , Idaho and Tennessee . According to an article by Julia King in the July 12th Computerworld, several other companies have made similar decisions as backlash from employees and customers has triggered productivity and revenue losses, as well as public relations and political donnybrooks. But economics continue to drive many companies to continue offshoring. So companies considering or doing offshoring are becoming more sophisticated in strategy and communications regarding offshore plans. Among other messages to customers is the unavoidable fact that consumers will pay more for products and services from companies that do not outsource overseas. (See  

Senator Clinton proposes “bestshoring” – Writing in the July 26th Wall Street Journal, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton analyzes the economics of offshoring. She points out that companies that offshore have many costs that offset wage savings, such as planning, offshore transition, vendor selection, technology, communications, offshore management, travel and security. She argues for a strategy that focuses on critical areas – innovation, new job creation, workforce development, connectivity expansion, and collaboration between industry, academia, labor and government. Her bottom line is that with a smarter national strategy and better information on real costs, many companies would rethink offshore outsourcing. (See

“Brain gain” to India as former nationals return – On July 24 The New York Times published a report by Amy Waldman describing the recent phenomenon of “reverse brain drain,” or “brain gain,” the result of significant numbers of highly educated and affluent Indians returning home after successful careers in the US.  In areas such as Bangalore , off-shoring success has made it possible for Indians to lead lives similar to those they knew in the US , with large homes, strong private schools, and consumer goods carrying familiar labels.  Some of the returnees begin their own companies, and some are having success as volunteers working for the improvement of life in their country of birth.  One notable case is Shikanth Nadhamuni, who was involved in the design of the Intel Pentium chip, and is now working to improve government processes for greater efficiency and accountability.  On the home front, returnees have the challenge of deciding how and to what extent they will reintegrate themselves and their children into a country which is now more foreign to them than the US they left.  (See

German engineers face Chinese competition – Siemens has begun to turn east for engineering know-how, having relied primarily on the ingenuity of its German engineers for more than 150 years. According to an article by Matthew Karnitschnig in the July 15th Wall Street Journal, the management of the company – no longer dominated by engineering – is moving engineering jobs to China where they can produce high tech at low cost. The company has announced plans to hire 1000 Chinese engineers this year and to invest about $1.23-billion in China . Germany ’s preeminence in engineering is being threatened by high labor costs, a lagging education system, and sluggish innovation. Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, in trying to shore up the engineering sector, has declared 2004 the “year of innovation”. But so far that effort is sputtering, as Germany ’s exploding deficit and stagnant growth forced Mr. Schroder to trim federal support this year for research and development. China , in the meantime, is moving in the opposite direction – aggressively improving technical education. (See

PCs now designed in Asia For several years, PCs sold throughout the world have been manufactured in Asia . Now, according to an article by Lee Gromes in the July 19th Wall Street Journal, the growing sophistication of Asian manufacturers makes it increasingly likely that they also have been designed there. “Original design manufacturers” in Asia are also branching out to other fields, like cameras and cellphones. Western brand name companies marketing such products claim that they only put their logo on products that they help to design. It remains to be seen whether – or when – such ODMs will enter the technology market with their own brands. (See

Technology gap helps China win jobs – China is challenging India as a low-cost home for software development, according to an article in the July 18th New York Times by William Holstein. India has had the leadership for software development and outsourcing due to an early jump start, but over the past couple of years the Chinese have become very competitive by bringing their skill sets up. Both countries have an inexhaustible source of human capital for the foreseeable future. India currently has an advantage in setting up complete services, a concept not yet typical in China . But China has adopted a strategy of jumping ahead to new technologies, not constrained by embedded practices. (See

Relocating for a job – More workers are facing a knotty work-family challenge – being forced to move to keep their job. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Sue Shellenbarger notes that corporate transfers are running 10 to 15% ahead of last year, putting pressure on employees to deal with the hardships that transfers can cause kids and marriages. An increasing number of couples are asking for, and getting, counseling about such moves and job-finding help for the trailing spouse. Even with offered perks such as more househunting trips, many employees find high family resistance to moving and turn down transfers. (See


6 – Journals

Issues in Science and Technology – The Summer 2004 issue includes major articles on threats to the US forest industry by global market changes, a patent system for the 21st century, electrical blackouts, transformation of US military forces, attrition in the scientific workforce, and strengthening of research in Asian countries. (See

Journal of Engineering Education -   The July 2004 issue of this ASEE journal contains ten major articles. The lead article is by Frank Barnes, based on his 2004 Bernard M. Gordon Prize lecture: “Some Frontiers for Engineering Education”. Other articles cover group size and duration in capstone design projects, student learning in simulated experiments, active learning, assessment, library services in design firms, and improving a school’s ranking. (See

European Journal of Engineering Education – The September 2004 issue contains six papers on the theme of teaching value concepts to engineering students, and six additional regular papers on topics including teaching on renewable energy, creativity in teaching, developing decision-making skills in teams, and the role of the supervisor in student projects. (See   


7 – Meetings

NAE Engineer of 2020 Phase II workshop – On July 20-24, the US National Academy of Engineering convened a group of top engineering educators and industry representatives for an “Engineer of 2020 National Education Summit”. The meeting was part of the second phase of the Engineer of 2020 Project – this phase aimed at how to shape future engineering education to meet the needs of the engineering profession in 2020. Chaired by Georgia Tech President Wayne Clough, the two-day session began with several keynote speeches, a panel discussion on innovation and reform in engineering education, and a review of the Engineer of 2020 Phase I Report. The group then divided into breakout teams to pursue several key topics: an undergraduate engineering education model to meet the aspirations in the Engineer of 2020 Report; proposed new pedagogical approaches; the relation of engineering education to liberal arts, social sciences and public policy; and needed revisions for department and faculty roles. Each team was asked to present an action plan to make the most important changes needed. (See

UPADI Education Congress – The biannual convention of the Pan American Union of Engineering Associations, to be held in Mexico City in September, includes a major two-day Engineering Education Congress on September 23rd and 24th. Major sessions include: New Models from the US NSF Coalitions Program; The Panorama of Engineering Education in Latin America ; and Capacity Building in Developing Countries for Economic Development. Information on UPADI2004, including registration and hotel forms, is available at, in Spanish and in English. The overall convention extends for a week, and includes thirteen specialty congresses.

Colloquium on International Engineering Education – The seventh annual colloquium will focus on Engineering Education in the Age of Globalization. Hosted by the University of Rhode Island on September 30 – October 3, the meeting will be held in Providence RI . For information, see



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