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US news roundup: 22-28 January


This week: unfunded proposals, conference safety and the student loan holiday

In depth: Democrats have said the administration of former US president Donald Trump interfered with a chemical assessment programme at the US Environmental Protection Agency, and have urged the new EPA leadership under Joe Biden’s administration to reverse Trump-era policy changes.

Full story: Democrats urge environment agency to undo policy changes


Here is the rest of the US news this week…

NSF declined $2.8bn of proposals rated ‘very good’ or better

The executive board of the National Science Foundation, the United States’ core basic research funder, has said it had to turn down 4,262 project proposals rated ‘very good’ or better in 2019 due to a lack of resources. Together, the proposals requested $2.8 billion in federal funding. “Breakthroughs in fundamental research today pave the way for the industries of tomorrow,” the board said. The NSF said 5,440 similar proposals were turned down in 2018, equivalent to $3.4bn.

NIH adds ‘safe space’ to conference policy

The National Institutes of Health, the United States’ main biomedical funding agency, has introduced a requirement for the conferences it funds to have a plan to prevent or mitigate harassment. Organisers must make clear what behaviour is acceptable, provide harassment counselling and survey delegates to check they feel safe. “Diversity in thought, expertise, perspective and experience add noticeable value to what is discussed at a meeting,” NIH deputy director for external research Michael Lauer said in a blogpost on the rule change.

Biden extends student loan holiday

The Department of Education has again extended the pause on federal student loan repayments that began in March 2020, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Under the loan holiday, former students can delay repayments without penalty. Americans “should not be forced to choose between paying their student loans and putting food on the table”, the department said. The Association of American Universities said it was “delighted to support” the extension by the Biden administration, which did not specify a new end date for the holiday.