More organizations call for hike in U.S. support of engineering
Demands that engineering gets a larger share of federal spending on science and technology (S&T) are spreading. The National Academies of Sciences and Engineering and the Institute of Medicine have now joined the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Foundation in the cause. The health of the federal S&T enterprise depends on a balanced investment strategy across a broad range of research fields, says a new report from the academies. The Clinton Administration's fiscal 2000 budget request would increase federal investment in S&T by just 0.4%, according to the study. These rises are not reflected across the broad range of S&T fields. Too large a percentage goes for health, sociological, and psychological research, the organizations contend. Those fields, and many others, actually rely on advances in physical sciences and engineering. While funds for the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation have increased 31.2% and 15.8%, respectively, since fiscal 1994, big cuts have been made in S&T at the Department of Defense. Historically, the military has provided significant support for research in physical sciences and engineering. For copies of "Observations on the President's Fiscal Year 2000 Federal Science and Technology Budget," phone (800) 624-6242.
Patent Office allows free access to huge database via Internet
You may now tap into a new Internet database containing text and images of more than 2 million U.S. patents and over 1 million registered and pending trademarks. The fully searchable database, which is among the federal government's largest, is available at www.uspto. gov, the web site of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). The database, which is updated weekly, contains the text and images of all patents dating back to 1976. The trademark data represents all pending and registered trademarks, and dates back to 1870. PTO's database contains more than 20 million pages comprising 2 terabytes of information--and growing. Last year, PTO issued 155,000 patents. Phone Brigid Quinn at (703) 305-8341.
Judges may disregard testimony of bogus engineering 'experts'
The same strict rules for judging the reliability of scientific testimony should be applied to engineering testimony. That is the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court in a ruling applauded by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). The High Court said a trial judge was correct in rejecting the testimony of an engineer in a liability case against a tire maker. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the Supreme Court's opinion that in weighing expert testimony judges may take into account one or more of the same four factors used since 1993 to determine the reliability of scientific testimony. The factors are testing, peer review, error rates, and acceptability in relevant professional circles. In a friend-of-the court brief, NAE had urged the justices to take the position it did. The brief noted the rise of controversial "junk engineering" and other unreliable testimony by expert witnesses, particularly in liability litigation. The case is No. 97-1709, Kumho Tire Co. et al vs. Carmichael et al.
Require undergraduates to study engineering, report recommends
All undergraduate college students in the U.S.--regardless of their major areas of study--should be required to take courses in engineering, science, mathematics, or technology. So recommends a committee of the National Research Council. In addition, two- and four-year colleges and universities should revise their admission requirements to ensure that they are consistent with national and state science and mathematics education standards. "Although the United States continues to lead the world in many scientific and technological advances, a majority of Americans are not prepared for the ever-expanding role that science and technology are playing in our daily lives," says committee chair Marye Anne Fox, chancellor, North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Future leaders, she adds, will need to make important decisions founded on their understanding of basic engineering and scientific concepts. You can get copies of "Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology" by phoning (202) 334-3313.
Poor design-data translations cost auto world 1 billion yearly
The automotive industry loses about $1 billion each year from faulty translations of design information and other computer files exchanged among manufacturers. The estimate is from a study commissioned by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Resources expended to correct or re-create data files because of software incompatibilities account for more than 80% of the cost. Delays in the introduction of new vehicles are responsible for almost 10%. Other expenses include purchases of different vendors' versions of software designed to perform similar tasks and outlays for data-exchange services. Phone Denise Herbert at (301) 975-2657.