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US news roundup: 15-21 April


This week: student loan changes, fairness in grant evaluation, and evaluating scientific teaching

In depth: US government departments and agencies have released action plans on how to tackle inequality, as part of a cross-government initiative ordered by president Joe Biden.

Full story: US agencies announce plans to tackle inequality

Here is the rest of the US news this week…

Democrats push for changes to student loan system

The Democrat chairs of the House and Senate education committees have urged education secretary Miguel Cardona to extend a student loan payment pause until 2023 and reform income-driven repayments to prevent severe debt. The pause on student loan payments was introduced to help with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. “The Department of Education should repair the broken safety net for low-income borrowers by addressing past failures and establishing a new income-driven repayment plan that keeps payments affordable, prevents debts from ballooning over time, and provides a reliable pathway out of perpetual repayment,” Senator Patty Murray and Representative Bobby Scott wrote in a letter to Cardona.

Biologists support Center for Scientific Review plan

The largest coalition of biological and biomedical researchers in the United States has praised a draft 2022-25 strategic plan for the National Institutes of Health Center for Scientific Review, which is intended to ensure fairness in grant assessments. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology said it supported the goals, which include broadening the pool of proposal reviewers, improving the reliability of the peer review process and increasing transparency. Comments on the draft are open until 30 April.

Universities plan better evaluation of Stem teaching

The Association of American Universities has received about $400,000 from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to set up a new learning community among science, technology, engineering and medicine departments at 20 member universities. The community is intended to find ways to improve methods of evaluating the quality of Stem teaching, and influence faculty members’ perceptions of teaching responsibilities. AAU president Barbara Snyder said the community would undertake “groundbreaking efforts to transform how teaching is assessed in higher education and to ensure undergraduate Stem instruction is more equitable and effective”.