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US news roundup: 30 October to 5 November


This week: green energy report suppressed, drop in public R&D spend and more

In depth: The American Association for the Advancement of Science—which supports research through fellowships, publishing and community engagement—has published data showing the extent to which its operations lack gender and ethnic diversity.

Full storyAAAS reveals lack of gender and ethnic diversity among operations


Also this week from Research Professional News

US Geological Survey chief embroiled in whistleblower row—Administration defends director after investigation into whistleblower retaliation leads to calls for his dismissal


Here is the rest of the US news this week…

DOE under fire over green energy reports

The US Department of Energy has been accused by the chair of the House science committee of suppressing scientific reports on green energy. In a letter to energy secretary Dan Brouillette, Eddie Bernice Johnson highlighted how the late release of a 2018 study on upgrading the United States’ electricity grid “may be part of a pattern over roughly the last two years, in which DOE funded reports…are unduly delayed or modified by senior DOE officials”. Johnson said she believed changes to DOE processes that “apparently enable interference” in the report review process “contravene the department’s scientific integrity policy”. The DOE did not respond to a request for comment from Research Professional News.

Row over student debt relief tool

Senior Democrats in Congress have released emails they allege show the Department of Education froze the development of an online tool to help students who have been defrauded by their colleges apply for debt relief. Carolyn Maloney and Robert Scott said the emails show the Department of Education “continues to undermine and harm these defrauded students at every turn”. Department press secretary Angela Morabito told Research Professional News the allegations are “entirely false” and that department leaders “have yet to see a tool and certainly at no time called for work on it to stop”.

Congress urges Facebook to work with researchers

The chair of the House’s commerce committee has urged the social media company Facebook to work with researchers studying its political advertising services, rather than trying to “undermine” them. Committee chair Frank Pallone and colleagues cited reports that the company sent a letter to researchers at New York University, telling them to stop collecting data on the political advertisements it sells. They said stopping the academics could reduce transparency around the 2020 presidential election on 3 November. Facebook did not respond to an invitation to comment from Research Professional News.

States’ R&D spend fell 4% in 2019

The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics reported a 4 per cent fall in US states’ public spending on R&D in 2019, equivalent to about $100 million. Within that, states’ spending on health-related R&D fell by about 2 per cent over the same period. There was some positive news: states’ spending on basic R&D rose by 17 per cent over the period, while their spending on agricultural and environmental research rose by almost 4 and 7 per cent respectively.

HHMI gives ‘six-figure’ gift for immortal cell line

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has given a “six-figure” gift to the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, which helps the victims of non-consensual research and their families. The money will help the descendants of Lacks, an African-American woman whose cancer cells were cultured into the immortal HeLa cell line, to pay for university, among other things. “We want to recognise the great benefit to science that Henrietta Lacks made possible,” said HHMI president Erin O’Shea.

AAAS urges retraction of student visa limit

The American Association for the Advancement of Science wrote to the Department of Homeland Security asking it to withdraw a proposed rule that would put a time limit on international student visas. A few days later, the American Physical Society published a report that said international students and researchers are “essential to future US economic competitiveness”.