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US news roundup: 8-14 May


The latest research and funding policy news from the US

In depth: Institutions reeling from Covid-19 disruptions will be unable to accommodate changes required by new federal rules that dictate how they should handle allegations of sexual harassment, university associations have said.

Full story: Universities ask for delay to sexual harassment rules


Here is the rest of the US news this week…

FBI warns China ‘targeting’ Covid-19 research organisations 

Hackers linked to the Chinese state are reportedly targeting research organisations working on Covid-19, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. In a formal warning, the agencies told institutions to check their cybersecurity and “insider threat” practices to prevent theft or “surreptitious review” of Covid-19 research. They promised to provide technical information on the alleged threat.

Call for Covid-19 support package

Thirty-three Democrat and independent senators have called for $26 billion in government funding to help US research recover from closures due to Covid-19. The group said it was “deeply concerned” about the impact of the pandemic on the research workforce, and that funding is needed to support existing research grants, technical staff and early-career researchers. The senators called for the additional funding as part of a fourth stimulus package, but White House officials said such a package would be “premature”.

FDA urged to allow gay men to give blood for research

A Congressional committee has urged the US Food and Drug Administration to remove restrictions preventing gay and bisexual men from donating blood plasma for research into Covid-19 treatments. In April, the FDA reduced the minimum amount of time that gay or bisexual men had to be sexually abstinent before donating blood from twelve to three months. In a letter, the committee said there was “no scientific justification” for the continued restriction, which they said “stigmatises gay and bisexual men and undermines critical research”.

NIH grants and funding rose in 2019 

The National Institutes of Health spent about 9 per cent more on grants for researchers working outside the agency in 2019 than it did the year before. NIH extramural spending in 2019 was about $29.5 billion on just over 55,000 new and renewed external awards—about $2.4 billion and about 2,350 grants more than in 2018. The figure includes the NIH’s standard R01 Research Project Grant programme, which also increased its spending by about 9 per cent over the same period, although the number of grants it awarded barely changed.

Biochemistry society makes journals open access

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has announced that its three journals will all become fully open access in January 2021. From then on, the final versions of all articles published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Molecular and Cellular Proteomics and the Journal of Lipid Research will be immediately available to everyone. The society said the journals, which are published through Elsevier, will retain the same “rigorous, fast and fair” peer review process.