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US news roundup: 14-20 August


The latest policy and funding news from the US

In depth: The White House has told federal agencies and departments to prioritise public health research and innovation when they allocate their budgets for the next two years.

Full story: Public health tops White House federal R&D spending priorities


Here is the rest of the US news this week…

Committee chair: Covid-19 vaccine scheme ‘lacks transparency’

The process by which Covid-19 vaccine candidates have been selected for government funding has been branded “opaque” by the chair of a special House subcommittee scrutinising the US response to the pandemic. James Clyburn said the workings of Operation Warp Speed, the US government’s Covid-19 vaccine initiative, “lacked transparency and excluded many vaccine experts”. Clyburn highlighted that the Trump administration has not disclosed who was involved in choosing eight vaccine candidates due to receive over $9 billion in public funding, and raised concerns over potential conflicts of interest among advisers to Operation Warp Speed.

Emergency NSF fellowships mooted to retain postdocs

Early career researchers could be thrown a lifeline if legislation to introduce a temporary postdoctoral fellowship programme makes it through Congress. The bipartisan bill, introduced on 14 August, would grant the National Science Foundation $500 million for a two-year programme designed to prevent the loss of young researchers due to the economic fallout from Covid-19. Eddie Bernice Johnson, chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, said Covid-19 has put postdocs in “a truly precarious position”, adding that the legislation would provide “a much-needed bridge to help early career researchers weather this storm”.

Contact between Nasa official and Boeing under scrutiny

Reuters has reported that the US Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into whether a former top official at Nasa gave improper guidance to the aerospace company Boeing during a contract competition. According to Reuters, prosecutors are looking at whether Doug Loverro, Nasa’s former head of human spaceflight, gave Boeing feedback on its proposal for a moon lander system during a blackout period, in violation of federal procurement laws. Loverro, who had been in the job less than seven months, quit abruptly in May. He declined to comment for Research Professional News, while Boeing and Nasa did not respond.

White House wants world-beating weather research

The Trump administration has signalled its intention to enhance the country’s weather forecasting and research enterprise by creating a White House body linking weather activities across all federal agencies. The Interagency Council for Advancing Meteorological Service (ICAMS) was signed into existence by Kelvin Droegemeier, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, on 17 August. “The goal of developing ICAMS…is to ensure that the United States will lead the world in meteorological services,” said Droegemeier.