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US news roundup: 31 July to 6 August


The latest policy and funding news from the US

In depth: Senate Republicans have unveiled plans for a $1 trillion Covid-19 relief package including boosts for the National Institutes of Health, higher education and the development of vaccines, tests and treatments.

Full story: Rival Covid-19 relief packages go head-to-head in Congresss



Here is the rest of the US news this week…

‘Cautious optimism’ and court cases over Covid-19 on campus

A survey found that university presidents are cautiously optimistic about the financial future of their institutions, as Senate Republicans introduced a fifth Covid-19 spending bill proposing about $29 billion in emergency aid for students and institutions. Another survey of leaders found that safety was their biggest concern. Safety also worries staff: about 100 in the University of North Carolina system are preparing a lawsuit to halt their return, citing fears about catching and spreading the disease, according to media reports.

Academies asked to investigate systemic racism in academia

The Democrat chair of the House science committee, Eddie Bernice Johnson, has asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to investigate systemic racism in academia. She wants them to investigate the effect of racism on recruitment across disciplines and the definition of research agendas. In addition, she wants them to recommend policies to prevent racism and approaches to restore the careers of those affected by it, as well as common principles that can ensure long-term cultural changes in organisations.

Concerns over composition of foetal research review board

Researchers have raised concerns about the ideological leanings of some members of a Health and Human Services panel set up to provide ethical oversight of federally funded research using human foetal tissue. “To say the panel is stacked is an understatement,” said Daniel Grossman, a public health researcher on abortion and contraception. Media reports suggested most of the panel hold anti-abortion views. More than 90 research funders and performers sent the panel an open letter supporting foetal tissue research.

Lawmakers seek guidance on public investment in remdesivir

Two Democrat politicians have asked the Government Accountability Office, a watchdog, to look into what legal rights the US government has as a result of it investing an estimated $70 million of federal funding in the development of remdesivir, an antiviral drug being used to treat Covid-19. Senator Debbie Stabenow and House oversight chair Carolyn Malone said the company that makes the drug, Gilead, is due to make $2 billion profit from it by the end of 2020.

Interoperability of health data set for a boost

Electronic health records are set to become more accessible for researchers thanks to a new law, the National Institutes of Health has said. The 21st Century Cures Act means that those who manage electronic health record systems must now meet nationwide standards ensuring interoperability and allowing clinical data to be transferred between providers or pooled for research. The NIH has also encouraged researchers to follow the new standard.