Lonely at the Top
As this is written, the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health—both major funders of engineering research—are the only big federal science agencies outside the Pentagon whose top leaders are still at their desks. With vacancies at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and with a determined budget cutter awaiting confirmation as director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Trump administration has so far left people guessing about its policy toward science and what kinds of research it will emphasize.
All this makes our cover story on NSF Director France Córdova particularly timely. Midway through a six-year term, she is not required or expected to resign at the end of a presidential term. And, as Mary Lord reports, there’s a lot Córdova wants to do, neatly summed up in NSF’s Ten Big Ideas. One is to succeed where so many others have failed in expanding the ranks of women and underrepresented minorities in science and engineering. Described as having an I-beam spine, Córdova also climbs mountains as a hobby. She has withstood budget constraints and congressional pressure. “Please don’t be afraid to take risks,” Córdova urges program officers in NSF’s INCLUDES program. Much now depends on whether she takes her own advice.
Turn over this magazine and you’ll find a preview of ASEE’s Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio. Jennifer Pocock made an advance visit and came away with a delightful story about the town’s “hidden—and not-so-hidden—gems.” Among them are a variety of mouth-watering food, the artsy Short North neighborhood, and historic German Village. Check out the Distinguished Lectures and other conference highlights.
Our ASEE Today section this month features a letter by ASEE President Louis Martin-Vega, as well as ASEE’s annual report.
We hope you enjoy the February Prism. We welcome your comments.