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US news roundup: 11-17 December


This week: a national initiative on artificial intelligence, rural science education, diversity and more

In depth: Groups representing scientists and university workers have urged the incoming administration of United States’ president-elect Joe Biden to make research funding a priority and provide financial support to teaching staff on “poverty-level wages”.

Full storyBiden urged to splurge on research and higher education

 Also this week from Research Professional News

Nasa sets out science plan for next crewed moon mission—Missions to lunar surface will explore relationships between the moon, sun and Earth


Here is the rest of the US news this week…

National AI initiative clears Congress

Legislation creating a National Artificial Intelligence Initiative, with aims including ensuring “continued United States leadership in artificial intelligence R&D”, has been forwarded by Congress for presidential approval. The legislation says the US president should, among other things, provide “sustained and consistent support for AI R&D through grants, cooperative agreements, testbeds, and access to data and computing resources”. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Frank Lucas, from the House science committee, said the legislation “sends a signal to both our allies and adversaries” about US leadership in responsible development of AI. 

Bill aims to bolster rural STEM

Rural communities in the United States could benefit from better educational access and training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics if a bill introduced into the Senate becomes law. The bill, sponsored by leading members of both parties on the Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation, would instruct the National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate federal programming for rural STEM education and make recommendations for improvement.

Academic diversity needs ‘urgent’ work 

An analysis by the American Association of University Professors has found that full-time female faculty earn salaries around 81.2 per cent of those of their male counterparts and are over-represented in less secure roles. Meanwhile, the chair of the House science committee Eddie Bernice Johnson has said Nasa must get more women and ethnic minorities onto its leadership programme. The National Institutes of Health has said it will fund institutions to recruit diverse groups of early stage researchers. “There is an urgent need for culture change”, said NIH director Francis Collins.

Expand international collaboration, panel advises 

A two-year project by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has concluded that the United States should strengthen its international science links, including with countries it has tense political relations with, like China. Expensive, large-scale work is only possible with foreign colleagues, the final report sought to remind policymakers. Restrictions on such work should be “well-justified and carefully and narrowly defined”, said the project panel, led by Arthur Bienenstock and Peter Michelson, both of Stanford University.