Conference Committee Kicks Off Negotiations on Bipartisan Innovation Legislation
Yesterday, the congressional conference committee tasked with negotiating differences between the Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act and the House-passed America COMPETES Act held its first public meeting. Each conferee spoke for two minutes about their priorities for negotiations. Conferees will continue to meet behind closed doors to hammer out details regarding individual provisions in the two bills in the coming days and weeks.
Earlier this year, AAU sent a letter to House and Senate leaders outlining our research and higher education priorities for the conference agreement. The letter asked lawmakers to prioritize provisions in the bills that would bolster and sustain the United States’ leadership in global science and innovation and eliminate provisions that would impede our ability to accomplish that goal. AAU urges Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement quickly and to ensure that the new research, education, and workforce development programs included in the legislation receive adequate funding. AAU asks Congress to add $10 billion in supplemental funding over five years to the conference agreement to help effectuate the policies and programs authorized in the final bill.
AAU also encourages Congress to retain immigration measures designed to attract and retain international STEM talent in the final conference agreement. Earlier this week, Axios reported that more than four dozen former national security leaders sent a letter asking Congress to enact provisions that would exempt advanced STEM degree holders from numerical limits on green cards. Doing so, the letter said, would help “tackle the self-inflicted drag that immigration bottlenecks impose on American competitiveness.” As AAU President Barbara R. Snyder wrote in a blog post earlier this month, “It is absolutely vital that Congress include provisions designed to retain and attract the talented immigrants who, throughout our history, have kept the United States at the forefront of scientific and economic innovation.”
Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research Recommends at Least $49 Billion for NIH
Nearly 400 members of the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, including AAU and many AAU member institutions, joined a statement recommending that Congress provide at least $49.048 billion for the National Institutes of Health in FY23. This would represent an increase of $4.1 billion over FY22. The Ad Hoc Group also urged lawmakers to ensure that any funding for the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) is separate from and in addition to the $49 billion recommendation.
The NIH is the nation’s premier public funder of medical research. As the statement notes, medical research supported by the NIH is responsible for “virtually every preventive intervention, diagnostic, and treatment available today.” The statement adds: “To fully harness novel research tools and partnerships against existing and looming threats, we must continue the forward momentum of meaningful investments in the NIH.”
Senate Confirms Asmeret Asefaw Berhe as DOE Office of Science Director
Earlier this week, the Senate voted 54-45 to confirm Asmeret Asefaw Berhe as the new director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Berhe is a professor of soil biogeochemistry, the Ted and Jan Falasco chair in earth sciences and geology, and the interim associate dean for graduate education at the University of California, Merced. She was nominated by President Biden last April. In a statement issued by UC, Merced, Berhe said that she was excited to “contribute to the Office’s mission of expanding human knowledge, driving discovery, and fostering innovation, technology development and economic progress.”
News of Interest
Valley Central: Texas A&M, Prairie View A&M Announce Partnership – Texas A&M University and the historically Black Prairie View A&M University announced that they are entering into a partnership focused on faculty exchange and support, student programs, and community outreach. Texas A&M President M. Katherine Banks said that the partnership will allow Texas’s only two land-grant universities to “leverage each other’s strengths while providing new opportunities to benefit students and faculty.” Prairie View A&M President Ruth Simmons said: “This partnership between a leading AAU institution and a leading HBCU is without doubt one of the most promising in the nation.”
BBC News: Moon Soil Used to Grow Plants for First Time in Breakthrough Test – University of Florida researchers have successfully grown plants in soil collected from the moon during the 1969-72 Apollo missions. According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, the research “is critical to NASA’s long-term human exploration goals” for the moon and Mars.
Politico: Schools Are Getting New Rules on Transgender Students and Sexual Assault. Here’s What’s Coming. – The Department of Education is expected to release new Title IX regulations on how schools should respond to allegations of sexual misconduct this month. The regulations are expected to codify protections for transgender students and be “friendlier to those who report sexual misconduct.” The policies will take effect once the regulatory process has run its course, which could take several months.
Inside Higher Ed: Tide of Exits Without Degrees Still Rising – According to a National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report released on Tuesday, the number of students who left college before earning a credential has risen 8.6% since 2019. The report shows that Black and Hispanic students made up 42.8% of the 39 million students who’ve left college without earning a degree or a credential since the Clearinghouse began tracking enrollment data in 1993.
Pasadena Star-News: Pasadena’s Caltech Breaks Ground on Resnick Center, Aims to ‘Open New Portals to Sustainability’ – Last week, the California Institute of Technology broke ground on a new center focused on climate research and sustainability. Caltech President Thomas Rosenbaum said that the Resnick Sustainability Institute “will amplify the creativity and energy of young scholars as they dedicate their efforts to understanding the fundamental workings of nature and to translate that understanding into action.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Neeli Bendapudi Makes History as She Takes Over as Penn State President – On Monday, Neeli Bendapudi made history as she became the first woman and the first person of color to serve as Pennsylvania State University’s president since the institution was founded in 1855. She succeeds Eric Barron, who served Penn State for nearly eight years.
Astronomers released visual evidence this week of a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. University of Arizona scientists and facilities played a key role in the discovery – the university provided two of the eight telescopes used to make the observations and researchers led the sophisticated data analysis that produced the image.
A team at Duke University has created a new tool that uses Twitter data to track major incidents in Ukraine hours before the media is able to report on them. The information can be used by relief organizations and others on the ground in Ukraine to help respond to major war incidents as quickly as possible.
The Task Force on American Innovation, of which AAU is a member, hosted a webinar last week on U.S. Research and Innovation: Where Are We Amidst Global Competition? The webinar brought together speakers from the industry and the academy to discuss the need for Congress to prioritize research funding in order to maintain U.S. leadership in global science and innovation. A video recording of the webinar is now available.
Last month, the National Defense Industrial Association, in collaboration with AAU and other organizations, hosted a webinar on Department of Defense science and technology budget priorities for FY23. Speakers included Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu. A recording of the webinar, as well as presentation slides, are now available.