The latest research and funding policy news from the US
In depth: House Democrats have laid out plans for major increases in federal research funding for 2021, aiming to skirt around a congressional deal to limit spending.
Here is the rest of the US news this week…
Institutions sue government over international student ban
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have sued the Trump administration over a ban on international students staying in the US if they take classes entirely online from September. “The order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness,” Harvard president Lawrence Bacow said in an open letter to students and staff. If upheld, the lawsuit would stop the ban, he said. The chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sudip Parikh, echoed the sentiments. He said the ban was “cruel to international students and damaging to America’s scientific leadership”.
Scientist group backs agency relocation bill
The campaign group the Union of Concerned Scientists has given its backing to a bill designed to force future governments to cost-in brain drain when relocating federal agencies. The draft law, proposed by Democrat representative Jennifer Wexton and Democrat senator Chris Van Hollen, follows the controversial decision to move two US Department of Agriculture agencies from Washington, DC to Kansas City, which resulted in the loss of 75 per cent of their staff.
Vaccine initiative comes under senatorial scrutiny
The Senate’s spending committee has grilled agency heads on the efficiency and efficacy of the Trump administration’s plan to expedite potential Covid-19 vaccines, Operation Warp Speed. “Just because something is new, doesn’t make it better,” said Republican senator Roy Blunt, who chairs the committee, referring to the sidestepping of conventional National Institutes of Health processes. NIH director Francis Collins said the compressed approach to clinical trials and production agencies are using “increases the financial risk, but not the product risk” of the vaccine candidates selected. The NIH aims to produce 300 million doses of a safe vaccine by spring 2021.
DoC accused of blocking report on ‘sharpiegate’
The Department of Commerce has been accused of blocking the publication of a report into political inference around weather warnings at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency it owns. A summary of the report named two senior NOAA staff who had interfered and recommended policy changes. Chair of the House science committee, Eddie Bernice Johnson, who has said senior DoC staff must answer questions about the interference, has called for the full report to be published as soon as possible and said she will use Congressional powers to force publication if necessary.