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US news roundup: 18 December to 7 January


This week: environmental science controversy, space missions, research ships and more

In depth: University leaders in the United States have strongly condemned the storming of the Capitol Building—home of the US Congress—by a mob brandishing banners supporting the outgoing US president Donald Trump, and said Trump is responsible for the mob’s actions.

Full storyUniversity leaders condemn mob’s invasion of US Capitol


 Also this week from Research Professional News

Congress hails $35bn for clean energy R&D in US spending bill—Deal also boosts funding for many national agencies, including the National Science Foundation

Democrats welcome Biden’s picks for top roles in his administration—High-profile appointments are pending Senate approval


Here is the rest of the US news this week…

EPA finalises controversial ‘secret science’ rule
The Environmental Protection Agency has finalised a controversial rule requiring data from studies used to shape environmental regulations to be publicly available. Outgoing EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said “the American public has a right to know about the EPA’s regulations and their scientific underpinnings”. The rule, often informally referred to as the ‘secret science’ rule, has been a major cause of concern for the scientific community since it was first proposed in 2018. Sudip Parikh, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said the finalised rule “severely undermines the use of science in making informed decisions”. The EPA did not respond to a request for comment from Research Professional News.

Sun-studying satellite missions approved
Nasa has given the green light to two satellite missions to study the origin of ‘solar wind’ from the Sun and the ‘space weather’ it creates through interactions with the Earth. The Sun mission is led by the Japanese space agency and is due to launch in 2026. The Earth mission will launch after mid-2024 and use three small satellites to study electrojets—electric currents that link the aurora phenomena with the magnetic field the Earth projects into space.

Contract awarded for two NOAA ships
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has signed a contract for two bespoke research ships. The $178 million deal covers the design and construction of the craft, named Oceanographer and Discoverer. The diesel-powered vessels will be used for “general oceanographic research and exploration”, including work on climate change and oceanic ecosystems, the agency said. Acting NOAA head Neil Jacobs said they would play a “vital role”.

Industry welcomes legal block for drug discount
The trade body Biotechnology Innovation Organization has welcomed a decision by a federal court in California to strike down a Trump administration rule that sought to lower drug costs. A judge has blocked the ‘most favoured nation’ rule, under which the United States would pay manufacturers no more than the price paid for a drug in “similar countries”, as the change was not subject to scrutiny and feedback. Bio president Michelle McMurry-Heath said the rule was a “reckless scheme of foreign price controls on the very scientists working to end our current pandemic”.