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US news roundup: 9-15 October


This week: scrutiny of government influence on science agencies and a Covid-19 immunology research network

In depth: Two-thirds of the US public would support paying $1 more a week in taxes to fund scientific research, according to a survey commissioned by the advocacy group Research!America, which also found high levels of support for government funding of such research across political alignments.

Full storySurvey finds US public backs higher tax to support research


Also this week from Research Professional News

Government sues Yale over ‘race discrimination’ in admissions—‘Scores’ of white and Asian American applicants rejected due to policy, US justice department says


Here is the rest of the US news this week…

White House role in scientific guidance scrutinised

Possible White House influence over guidance from federal science agencies has come under scrutiny from an investigative committee of the House of Representatives. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said the committee was concerned that a “little-known office within the White House…is exerting influence over what is supposed to be non-partisan, scientific messaging”. Krishnamoorthi detailed allegations that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs controlled the content and release of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration in relation to Covid-19. Writing to the CDC, Krishnamoorthi raised concerns that oversight by White House officials “gives undue weight to the opinions of non-expert political appointees, weakens CDC guidance and delays its publication”. The OIRA, the CDC and the FDA were approached for comment but did not respond.

Health secretary accused of ‘overruling’ scientists

Alex Azar, the health secretary, has been accused of overruling scientists at the Food and Drug Administration by allowing the sale without FDA review of tests for Covid-19 that are to be used solely within labs. Three leading House Democrats said Azar had “once again committed a grave error in overruling objections of career scientists at [the FDA]”, citing evidence from FDA scientists that 82 out of 125 tests the FDA had been asked to review under previous rules had “design or validation problems”. The FDA told Research Professional News that while no longer requiring reviews of laboratory-developed tests, the agency was continuing to review other types of test. The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to a request for comment.

NIH launches research network for Covid-19 immunology

The National Institutes of Health is pumping “more than half” of a $306 million emergency Covid-19 spending pot into setting up an immunology research network for the disease. The Serological Sciences Network for Covid-19—SeroNet—will include more than 25 academic, government and private biomedical research institutions. It is hoped the research it supports through its centres of excellence and projects will hasten Covid-19 testing, treatment and vaccine development.