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Leading Research Universities Report, July 1, 2022

Biochemist working on a computer in a labAAU, Associations Urge Congress to Reach Final Agreement on USICA/America COMPETES

AAU joined 34 other leading science, engineering, and higher education organizations in sending a letter asking Congress to reach a final agreement by the end of July on the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260) and the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength Act (H.R. 4521). A sensible, bipartisan “final agreement coupled with supplemental funding would bolster U.S. competitiveness, address supply chain issues, and enhance U.S. security,” the letter notes.

The letter points out the various similarities between the science and technology portions of the two bills and urges Congress to use them as a basis for a final agreement. For example, both bills authorize the creation of a new directorate at the National Science Foundation and an increase in NSF funding overall. Both bills also authorize the creation of regional tech hubs and an initiative to advance innovation in biology research and development; they also expand opportunities for students and institutions involved in STEM research and education.

The letter emphasizes that Congress should include funding to make the “creative, focused approaches in the legislation” a reality. It urges Congress to add “$10 billion in supplemental appropriations” for NSF, the Department of Energy, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology as part of the final agreement as well as “$52 billion in appropriations for the domestic semiconductor manufacturing industry.” Swift action from Congress now will enable the United States to maintain its leadership in science and technology for years to come, the letter says.

A broken bridgeSens. Coons and Sasse to Introduce the Building Civic Bridges Act

Earlier this week, Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) announced that they will introduce a Senate companion to the Building Civic Bridges Act, a bipartisan legislation aimed at helping Americans overcome political and ideological divisions to address pressing civic issues at the local level. The legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Andy Barr (R-KY) in February.

The legislation would create an Office of Civic Bridgebuilding within AmeriCorps that would provide competitive grants to nonprofits, universities, and other community groups to initiate civic bridgebuilding programs that would facilitate conversations within a community across ideological spectrums. The goal is to help individuals and communities get past polarization to discuss real solutions on key issues like education, public safety, and health. The bill would also fund research on civic bridgebuilding.   

“I applaud Sens. Coons and Sasse for introducing the Building Civic Bridges Act in the Senate as a smart way to encourage civic engagement and to renew our commitment to democracy,” said AAU President Barbara R. Snyder. “Universities have a unique role to play in fostering civil discussion, and that kind of earnest engagement across deep divides is more important now than ever before,” she added.

ICYMI: Barbara’s Blog: Responding Constructively to Corrosive Division

AAU, Associations Send Letter Supporting the Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act of 2022

AAU joined ACE and 13 other higher education organizations in sending a letter to the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs supporting the Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act of 2022. The legislation would address recent policy changes to the 85-15 rule made by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

As the letter explains, the 85-15 rule “seeks to ensure that at least 15 percent of the students in any education program are not using GI bill benefits to pay for the program.” The rule protects veterans from being targeted by programs exclusively designed to take advantage of generous GI benefits and provides a helpful measure of the quality of educational programs. Institutions can receive an exemption from computing and reporting 85-15 ratios to the VA if fewer than 35% of students on campus receive GI benefits. During a recent policy reset, the VA rescinded all 35% exemptions currently in effect and began requiring campuses to provide 85-15 ratios for every program to receive future exemptions. The VA also asked campuses to resubmit their calculations every two years. As the letter notes, due to these changes, “numerous programs at colleges and universities across the country will be prohibited from enrolling veterans next term.”

The letter commends the proposed legislation’s clarifications to the 35% exemption and notes that the bill “will undo the negative impacts of VA’s recent policy change on institutions with low total veteran populations and the veterans they serve.” The letter adds that the legislation would “ensure that veterans who attend these institutions will be able to enroll in their program of choice.”

A padlock against an abstract backgroundOECD Issues Report on Maintaining Integrity and Security in the Global Research Ecosystem

The Committee on Scientific and Technological Policy at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development recently published a policy paper on “Integrity and Security in the Global Research Ecosystem.” The report focuses on how governments, research funding agencies, research institutions, universities, academic associations, and intergovernmental organizations can all work together to “safeguard national and economic security whilst protecting freedom of enquiry, promoting international research cooperation, and ensuring openness and non-discrimination.”

The report emphasizes that scientific research benefits from open communication and collaboration across borders. Yet many governments and non-state actors have sought to exploit this openness to serve their own interests. As the report notes, foreign interference in research poses serious national and economic security risks and threatens scientific collaboration and research activities. The report provides examples of the work that is already being done internationally to maintain research security and offers recommendations on how various actors in the international research ecosystem can mitigate the threat of foreign interference and ensure that scientific collaboration and research can continue unimpeded. “If not carefully managed, security risks can seriously damage the health and effectiveness of the international research ecosystem and undermine trust in research findings,” the report says.

News of Interest

Inside Higher Ed: Parallel Journeys, Lasting Legacies – Rice University President Reggie DesRoches, University of California, Davis Chancellor Gary May, and University of Maryland, College Park President Darryll Pines all attended the University of California, Berkeley College of Engineering in the 1980s. Mentorship and support from other students and faculty at Berkeley played a huge role in the success of these three Black men. Yet, anti-affirmative action legislation in California and shifting priorities in the years since has meant that their success was “a unique moment at the university” that has now become difficult to replicate.

AP News: LGBTQ Students Would Get New Protections Under Biden Plan – Last week, the Biden administration proposed new regulations that would expand the protections afforded under Title IX to LGBTQ students. The proposed changes clarify that Title IX’s prohibition of sex-based discrimination in educational programs or activities that receive federal funding also applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Washington Post: The Fall of Roe Scrambles Abortion Training for University Hospitals – Accreditation rules require university medical centers to offer abortion training as part of their obstetrics and gynecology residency and fellowship programs. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, teaching hospitals in states that have banned abortion will have to find new ways to continue offering this training to their residents.

The Detroit News: Feds Double Grant for UM’s Great Lakes Research Center to $53M – The Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research in the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability has been awarded $53 million by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Students and researchers at the institute will use the funds to “find solutions to pressing Great Lakes issues, such as climate change, extreme weather events, invasive species, harmful algal blooms and ecosystem protection.”

NPR: Arizona Offers Free College Tuition to the State’s Native Students – Native American students enrolled in any of Arizona’s 22 federally recognized tribes will no longer have to pay tuition and fees to study at the University of Arizona. The program is meant to ease access and promote success for Native students in the state.

Featured Research

A person closing window blinds

To Beat the Summer Heat, Passive Cooling Really Works

University of Oregon researchers found that, even during a severe heat wave in the Pacific Northwest in 2021, passive cooling techniques such as opening windows at night and pulling shades down during the day cooled apartments enough to keep them from getting dangerously hot and reduced air conditioning load by up to 80%.

A stack of newspapers

Struggling Communities Are Hit Hardest by the Decline in Local Journalism

A report from Northwestern University has found that the United States is losing local newspapers at the rate of two per week. Report authors say that the decline has especially hit “economically struggling, traditionally underserved communities” that are unlikely to get a replacement source of news. Research shows that decline in local journalism is linked to decreasing voter participation, rise in corruption, and spread of misinformation and political polarization.