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US news roundup: 12-18 February


This week: Republicans aggrieved over Covid-19 relief, science committee’s female chair, and foetal tissue research

In depth

The administration of US president Joe Biden has taken the first step towards creating a new national innovation funding body focused on developing climate-friendly technologies, as part of its push to reinvigorate the United States’ response to climate change.

Full story: White House starts development of climate technology funder

Also this week from Research Professional News

US agency removes toxicity assessment, citing interference—Environment agency risk analysis for industrial chemical retracted after White House decree



Here is the rest of the US news this week…

Republicans decry lack of scrutiny for Covid-19 relief

Republican committee members in the House of Representatives have objected to being left out of negotiations for the $2 trillion Covid-19 relief package making its way through Congress. Democrats have used an instrument called a budget resolution that puts responsibility for the details of proposed spending in the hands of congressional committees, but Republicans have said that Democratic chairs are rushing measures without proper scrutiny. The senior Republican on the House science committee, Frank Lucas, said the committee “will be abdicating its responsibilities and jurisdiction” by not allowing committee members to weigh in on budget issues. Committee chair Eddie Bernice Johnson did not respond to a request for comment.

Senate science committee gets first female chair

The first woman to chair the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation took over the role on 11 February. Speaking to her fellow committee members, Democratic senator Maria Cantwell said she hoped they “can do a better job on strategies to help women in the workforce, particularly in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics”. Cantwell has taken over from Republican senator Roger Wicker, who will become the minority leader now that the Democrat party controls the Senate.

Surge in public support for basic research

The proportion of the US public who see government funding of basic research as necessary has risen from 77 per cent in August 2020 to 85 per cent in January 2021, according to a survey by the advocacy group Research!America. The survey, which included 1,215 participants, also found that 73 per cent thought the Covid-19 pandemic required the US to make science and technology a higher priority, and that 80 per cent thought it was important to increase the percentage of GDP the country invests in research.

Groups double down on importance of foetal tissue research

Universities and biomedical research organisations have written to the Department of Health and Human Services, urging it not to enact a rule from the administration of former US president Donald Trump that would add conditions to the use of human foetal tissue by university-based researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health. In their letter to acting department head Norris Cochran, the organisations said that donated foetal tissue from abortions “remains a crucial resource for biomedical research”.