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US news roundup: 6-12 November


This week: Senate spending bills, support for young researchers and a $95 million gift rejected

In depth: Research leaders and higher education experts around the world have begun scouring US president-elect Joe Biden’s past for clues about what his presidency holds for the sector.

Full story: Research world welcomes Biden but fears ‘weak’ presidency 

See also: President-elect Joe Biden has begun crucial science appointments after being widely declared the victor of the most rancorous election in recent US history.

Full story: Biden makes science moves amid hopes for research-friendly reset


Here is the rest of the US news this week…

R&D funds maintained in Senate spending bills

On 10 November, the Senate appropriations committee released a long-awaited tranche of spending bills for 2021 that largely mirror R&D commitments contained in the House spending package passed in July. These include $44 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $8.5bn for the National Science Foundation and $7bn for the Department of Energy’s science office. As in previous years, president Donald Trump’s requests to slash research budgets have been ignored, including his efforts to stop funding the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. The Senate and the House must agree to a final package by 11 December to keep the government running.

NIH supports early career researchers

The National Institutes of Health is prioritising support for early career scientists as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Mike Lauer, the funder’s head of external grants. In a blogpost, Lauer outlined how the NIH was introducing an award for early-stage investigators that required no preliminary data. The funder is also speeding up how it processes requests from grant holders who have been affected by the pandemic. Lauer said that the NIH recognised the “daunting challenges” facing all scientists restarting research programmes, and that it would also prioritise support for researchers at risk of losing all funding and “certain high-priority clinical trials”.

University backtracks on $95m gift

Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has ended a relationship with a donor who had pledged to donate $95 million for academic and athletic programmes, according to multiple media reports. The university had announced the gift in July, but in a statement provided to news agencies on 3 November it said that the anonymous donor had “not fulfilled an early expectation of the arrangement, causing the university to re-evaluate and ultimately terminate the agreement”. Coastal Carolina University did not respond to a request for comment from Research Professional News.

Higher education groups push for loose export controls

Five associations representing major universities and medical schools in the United States have argued that proposed export controls on technologies related to national security should be as loose as possible. Reacting to a draft rule from the Department of Commerce, the associations said in a letter that “overly broad or vague controls” could “stifle scientific progress and impede research”.