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US news roundup: 1-7 July


This week: ‘top secret’ research, supercomputers powering up and a plan to boost semiconductor manufacturing

In depth: The new director of the extramural biomedical workforce at the National Institutes of Health has said that she wants to reach out more to institutions that receive only a small amount of the funder’s financial support but that nevertheless play an important part in the US’s biomedical R&D.

Full story: New NIH workforce director seeks to broaden funder’s reach

Also this week from Research Professional News

US and China trade blows over moon ambitions—Nasa administrator Bill Nelson expresses concern about China’s plans, but Chinese government dismisses his claims

Supreme rancour—Independence Day dawns for researchers getting to grips with Supreme Court’s abortion ruling

Here is the rest of the US news this week… 

‘Top secret’ research classification under discussion

The National Science Foundation has enlisted the help of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to facilitate a discussion on when federally funded research should be open and when it should be classified. A National Academies workshop to discuss this issue is tentatively scheduled for the autumn, Science reported. The workshop is expected to review a Cold War-era policy that aimed to keep the classification of fundamental research to a minimum, and to ask how openness could be encouraged despite deep concerns about countries such as China engaging in academic espionage. The NSF has reportedly not yet decided whether to ask the National Academies to conduct a comprehensive study on this issue. In 2019, it asked Jason, an independent advisory body, to review whether a policy update was needed.

NOAA flips switch on weather-forecasting supercomputers

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service has turned on two new supercomputers. The twin Hewlett Packard Enterprise Cray supercomputers, known as Dogwood and Cactus, are located in Virginia and Arizona. They will be used for advanced weather modelling and will generate more accurate forecasts and warnings, the NOAA said. The supercomputers, supplied by General Dynamics Information Technology, are reportedly three times as powerful as the agency’s previous hardware. “Today’s supercomputer implementation is the culmination of years of hard work by incredible teams across the NOAA,” said NOAA administrator Rick Spinrad. “This is a big day for the NOAA and the state of weather forecasting,” said Ken Graham, director of the NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Researchers are developing new ensemble-based forecast models at record speed, and now we have the computer power needed to implement many of these substantial advancements to improve weather and climate prediction.”

Bill to boost semiconductor workforce introduced

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology has published draft legislation to support the growth of a diverse and sustainable semiconductor workforce through National Science Foundation awards. The Chipping In Act of 2022 aims to address the semiconductor chip shortage in the US by boosting domestic microelectronics manufacturing. As a result of outsourcing microelectronics manufacturing overseas, the US currently has few workers with advanced education in this field. There are also few academic programmes supporting this career path, and there is low awareness of the industry among graduate students in science, technology, engineering and maths. The bill will establish traineeship programmes for students pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees, particularly at minority-serving institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It will also award NSF grants to institutions to expand their microelectronics education, and it will encourage higher education institutions to partner with industry to offer students access to training opportunities and facilities.