November 2009 – IEEE News

IEEE-USA Helps Produce More Than Three-Dozen Local TV News Reports on
IEEE Technologies That Benefit Society – From Creating a Voice-Command
Robotic Helping Hand to Fighting Astronaut Bone Loss

WASHINGTON (6 October 2009) — To increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of the role of engineering in society, IEEE-USA has helped to produce more than three-dozen TV news reports on IEEE technologies this year. The segments were distributed to 140 U.S. TV stations and aired on stations with an estimated 122 million views.

The IEEE-USA-supported reports included: “Biomedical Engineers Creating Voice-Command Robotic Helping Hand for Patients in Need”; “Engineers Zero-In on Fighting Astronaut Bone Loss with Space Treadmill Simulator”; “Computer Scientists Make Still Photos in Existing Video Pixel Perfect with New Software”; and “Engineers Create Alternate Left Turns to Speed Up Intersections.”

To view these IEEE-related technology stories, visit IEEE-USA’s dedicated Web site at http://www.aip.org/dbis/IEEE. To see an example of how a local TV station broadcasts these reports, go to the story on “Doppler Radar Tracking Babies” at http://aip.org/dbis/stories/2009/10089.html.

Over the last five years, IEEE-USA has helped to underwrite some 700 local television news reports on engineering and science through the American Institute of Physics’ “Discoveries & Breakthroughs” TV news service. IEEE-USA volunteer members collaborate with other technical professional society representatives in weekly telephone conferences to develop and vet story ideas, and to review scripts.

“Discoveries & Breakthroughs” is designed to provide accurate science, technology, engineering and mathematical news in an easily understood, visual format: to the millions who watch local TV news in the United States; to a growing international audience; and to Web news media syndicators. “Discoveries & Breakthroughs” stories are also being pitched to news editors in shrinking news operations — focusing on newspapers and their Web sites, as well as wire services and other major Web news aggregators.

Academic research has documented that the public obtains most of its information about engineering and science from local TV news and that viewers of the “Discoveries & Breakthroughs” TV reports are more likely to support engineering and science than those who are not viewers.

The service delivers 12 vetted 90-second TV reports monthly, in English and Spanish, through its subscribing U.S. TV news stations — with a confirmed minimum average of more than 47 million audience views per month, according to Nielsen Media Research, SIGMA. Voice of America and the Middle East Broadcasting Center air the reports worldwide.

“Discoveries & Breakthroughs” is seeking new story ideas to include in its TV reports. IEEE student chapters are encouraged to submit stories about engineering breakthroughs themselves, or through their universities’ public information officers, to Emilie Lorditch at elorditc@aip.org

Third Quarter Engineering Unemployment Data Show Mixed Trends

WASHINGTON (7 October 2009) — The unemployment rate for U.S. electrical and electronics engineers (EEs), which had jumped to a record high in the second quarter, has eased, according to third quarter data just released by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the engineering profession as a whole, the rate continued to climb, but more slowly.

The jobless rate for EEs dropped from 8.6 percent in the second quarter to 7.3 percent in the third. Quarter to quarter, the EE workforce grew by 26,000.

For civil engineers, the unemployment rate dropped from 4.7 percent to 3.6 percent, but for mechanical engineers, it rose from 5.6 percent to 9.5 percent. Overall, engineering joblessness rose to 5.9 percent, a 0.4 percentage point increase compared to a 1.6 percentage point increase in the second quarter.

The unemployment rate for computer professionals went from 5.4 percent in the second quarter to 6 percent in the third. Software engineers showed a slight decline (4.7 percent vs. 5 percent), while computer scientists and systems analysts experienced an increase (7.3 percent vs. 6.4 percent).

“These mixed data suggest that the worst may be passing, but we are still a long way from the levels of engineering unemployment we would expect to see in a strong economy,” IEEE-USA President Gordon Day said. “We are also encouraged that announcements of layoffs in the high-tech sector appear to have subsided, after peaking early in the year. A clear turnaround in engineering unemployment would be a very positive sign for the general workforce, since engineers create new jobs in many categories.”

Career enhancement resources are available for IEEE members at http://www.ieeeusa.org/careers/. Help for unemployed and at-risk members is available at http://www.ieeeusa.org/careers/help/.

IEEE-USA Releases Second E-Book in Innovation Series

WASHINGTON (16 October 2009) — IEEE-USA has just released the second e-book in its new innovation series on “Doing Innovation: Creating Economic Value.” Gerard H. (Gus) Gaynor, a retired 3M director of engineering, brings you “Book 2: Developing a Workable Innovation Process.”

Gaynor writes that his new book “teaches the fundamentals related to the innovation process, presents various models with their limitations, describes the innovation design process, considers the issues in developing a process model, suggests a generic model and describes organizing for innovation.”

Topics in the e-book include:

— Status of Innovation
— Innovation Process Models
— Summary of Process Models
— Working Toward an Innovation
— Innovating by Design
— Generic Innovation Process Model

You can purchase your copy of “Doing Innovation: Creating Economic Value – Book 2: Developing a Workable Innovation Process” at www.ieeeusa.org/communications/ebooks for the IEEE member price: $9.95. The nonmember price is $19.95.  IEEE members can purchase other IEEE-USA E-Books at deeply discounted member prices — and download some free e-books.

To purchase IEEE members-only products and to receive the member discount on eligible products, members must log in with their IEEE Web account.

Former Presidential Science Adviser to Speak on Relationship between STEM R&D  Funding and Job Growth, Innovation at IEEE-USA-Sponsored Event

WASHINGTON (20 October 2009) — Dr. John Marburger, who served as science adviser to former President George W. Bush, will discuss the relationship between money spent on research and development in the STEM enterprise and job growth and innovation during his keynote address at George Washington University on Wednesday.

“We need to understand the relation between inputs like research funding, scholarships, tax incentives and training programs, and outputs like job creation, productivity and GDP growth,” said Marburger, who served as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 2001-09. “Those high-level outputs are being measured now, but to evaluate specific policies or programs we need intermediate measures that can be assessed in the short term to let us know if we’re on the right track, and to get these right, we need better understanding of the whole innovation system.  

“So first we need data, and conceptual frameworks, then we can choose measures that mean something and collect or refine data on those measures.”

“STEM Enterprise: Measures for Innovation and Competitiveness” is designed to assess the effectiveness of all federal, state, private and academic money spent on spent on R&D in the STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — enterprise. Work in this area serves as a driving force for economic and social advancement throughout the world.

The event will be at George Washington’s Marvin Center on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On-site registration will be taken. For more on the program and additional speakers, see http://www.ieeeusa.org/calendar/conferences/stem/.

Marburger is a university professor in the departments of Physics and Electrical Engineering at Stony Brook (N.Y.) University, where he served as president from 1980-84. His tenure as the president’s science advisor began soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was the longest in history. Marburger helped to formulate major policy initiatives associated with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, re-orientation of the nation’s space policy following the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the nation’s re-entry in the international nuclear fusion program ITER, and the American Competitiveness Initiative that sought to double federal funding for the physical sciences and engineering.

Wednesday’s event will also look at the link between STEM R&D and quality of life in the United States and abroad, a link Marburger says is poorly understood.

“There is pretty obviously a link because technology pervades everything we do, but exactly how is a very big question,” he said. “As a scientist and an educator, I love it when Congress funds more research in universities — any research. But as a policy adviser, I have to ask if we really understand what we’re doing when we fund particular fields and programs at the particular levels that we do. In many cases we’re just responding to, more or less, random advocacy.”

Marburger thinks the U.S. STEM enterprise is so big — the federal government alone has an R&D portfolio of $147.3 billion in FY 2009 — that no single organization can create unbiased reports and recommendations for policymakers.

“No one entity can provide the understanding needed for rational policymaking to enhance competitiveness. You need an entire profession doing this all the time,” Marburger said. “It’s not a disadvantage to have multiple sources of reports and recommendations, especially when our state of knowledge about cause and effect is so weak. An unbiased report today would be one that says we don’t understand how all this works. There are certainly entities like the National Academies that produce good, relatively unbiased reports. But broad policy recommendations are nearly always highly subjective and intuitive.  

“The best we can do in the current environment of ignorance is to assemble groups of experts and ask their opinion. I would like to see us spend more on providing better tools for those experts, and on training professionals who can improve on these intuitive judgments.”