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Leading Research Universities Report, November 6, 2023

Protest sign that says Zero Tolerance For AntisemitismWhite House, Universities Launch Initiatives to Confront Antisemitism, Islamophobia on College Campuses

In a press briefing last Monday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced that the Biden administration is taking multiple actions to curb the threat of rising antisemitism on college campuses. Jean-Pierre noted that both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice “have taken steps to ensure campus law enforcement is included in engagements with state and local law enforcement and have taken numerous steps to provide outreach and support directly to campuses.”

She also noted that the Department of Education is “expediting the process of making it easier for students and others who experience antisemitism, Islamophobia, or other discrimination to file a complaint under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.” The Hill reported that the department is also “planning to hold several ‘technical assistance webinars’ in the coming months to ensure students facing discrimination on campus have the information they need in order to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights.” Last Monday, according to Politico, several prominent Jewish leaders met with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to discuss what more the Biden administration could do to address antisemitism in higher education.

Last Wednesday, the Biden administration also announced that it is developing the first-ever U.S. national strategy to counter Islamophobia. The strategy will be a joint effort led by the White House’s Domestic Policy Council and National Security Council. Earlier this year, in May, the White House launched a national strategy to counter antisemitism and the Department of Education released a “Dear Colleague” letter reminding schools of their legal obligations “to provide all students, including Jewish students, a school environment free from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, including shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.”

Universities also took several steps last week to address antisemitism on campus. The University of Pennsylvania announced last week that its president, Liz Magill, is launching an action plan to combat antisemitism. The approach, according to the university, is anchored in the national strategy to counter antisemitism and includes the creation of a new university task force on antisemitism as well as “complete reviews of safety and security for all Penn-affiliated religious life centers” and “investments to strengthen academic scholarship on antisemitism and its impact on society.” “With this plan, Penn is building and strengthening its historic commitment to its Jewish community and providing a roadmap for meaningful action and learning to fight antisemitism,” said Penn Board of Trustees Vice Chair Julie Platt.

In a similar action, Columbia University President Minouche Shafik also announced the creation of a task force on antisemitism to enhance the university’s “ability to address this ancient, but terribly resilient, form of hatred.” According to Columbia leaders, the task force “represents the first in a series of steps … to reinvigorate community-building, develop robust support networks, and tackle head-on the destructive forces that seek to undermine our values and divide us across a range of issues.” Harvard University President Claudine Gay, in remarks at a shabbat dinner hosted by the Harvard Hillel, also announced that she has “assembled a group of advisors whose wisdom, experience, and counsel will help guide us forward” in the “vital work of eradicating antisemitism from our community.” “As president, I am committed to tackling this pernicious hatred with the urgency it demands,” Gay said. “Antisemitism has a very long and shameful history at Harvard. For years, this university has done too little to confront its continuing presence. No longer.”

The Capitol building with the sunrise behind itHill Update: House and Senate Continue Work on Appropriations Bills

Since electing a speaker, the House of Representatives has approved several appropriations bills, including the FY24 Energy-Water bill (H.R. 4394), the Legislative Branch bill (H.R. 4364), the Interior-Environment bill (H.R. 4821), and the Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6126). Due to significant policy differences, the White House has issued veto threats for many of these bills; leaders in the Senate have also indicated that will not take up the Israel supplemental bill, and will instead pass their own package.

The Senate, meanwhile, passed a spending package consisting of the FY24 Agriculture-FDA (S. 2131), Military Construction-VA (S.2127), and Transportation-HUD (S.2437) measures last Wednesday in an 82-15 vote. The Senate adopted 30 amendments to the package.

Even as both chambers work to pass appropriations measures, they are also beginning to mull another stopgap measure to keep the government funded past November 17, when the current continuing resolution expires. The Senate is considering a continuing resolution to keep the government open through mid-December. But House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA),  according to Roll Call, appears to favor a “laddered” approach, which “would extend pieces of current appropriations for different time periods, effectively setting up a series of funding cliffs while avoiding a single deadline that could trigger a partial government shutdown for all agencies.”

Photo of panel at the Education Group for Diversification and Growth in Engineering (EDGE) Consortium AAU President Participates in Summit Focused on Diversifying the Semiconductor Industry Workforce

Recently, AAU President Barbara R. Snyder participated in the fall summit of the Education Group for Diversification and Growth in Engineering (EDGE) Consortium here in Washington. The EDGE Consortium is a new alliance of women presidents and deans of engineering from six AAU member universities (Brown University; Dartmouth University; Indiana University; the University of Rochester; the University of Washington; and the University of California, Berkeley) as well as the Olin College of Engineering.

The consortium aims to reform STEM education and to grow and diversify the semiconductor industry workforce. Its fall summit brought together leaders from higher education, industry, and the government to create a roadmap for achieving this vision. Many members of Congress attended the summit, including Sens. Todd Young (R-IN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Reps. Joseph Morelle (D-NY) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).

During the summit, President Snyder moderated a “fireside chat” with National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, Olin College of Engineering President Gilda Barabino, Ericsson Vice President of Advanced Technology Group Sheryl Genco, and Micron Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Fran Dillard on how the public and private sectors can work together to fill the deep need for diverse, industry-ready talent.

They talked about how federal agencies can work with research institutions to enhance fundamental research and how higher education institutions can help advance R&D in the semiconductor industry. They also discussed what EDGE member institutions are doing to support students from historically marginalized groups and how industry can help make STEM programming at colleges and universities more accessible and in line with workforce needs. The participants made it clear that there is room for everyone in STEM, but that work needs to be done across industries to reform STEM education and to build a job-ready labor force.

Digital illustration of a microchip with the initials A.I.President Biden Issues Executive Order on AI

Last Monday, President Biden issued an executive order on “the safe, secure, and trustworthy development and use of artificial intelligence.” The executive order includes actions to mitigate the harms and risks of AI while maximizing its benefits. It also establishes standards for the effective and ethical use of AI in government and in industry. A White House fact sheet on the order is available here. The Office of Management and Budget also released draft implementation guidance for the executive order on Wednesday. OMB welcomes public comment by December 5, 2023.

The executive order includes several provisions to promote AI innovation and research in the United States. For example, it directs the National Science Foundation to launch a pilot program implementing the National AI Research Resource (NAIRR) to “provide AI researchers and students access to key AI resources and data.” It also accelerates funding for “AI research in vital areas like health care and climate change” and directs government agencies to “use existing authorities to expand the ability of highly skilled immigrants and nonimmigrants with expertise in critical areas to study, stay, and work in the United States.”

Logo for the Golden Goose AwardSubmit Nominations for the 2024 Golden Goose Award

Nominate your colleagues, collaborators, or role models for a 2024 Golden Goose Award! The Golden Goose Award honors federally funded researchers whose work may sound silly, odd, obscure, wasteful of taxpayer funding, or serendipitous, but which has had a major positive impact on society. This year’s awardees’ research resulted in a novel method to sequence DNA that led to a pocket-sized device that can sequence DNA and RNA in real time; a technique to use bacteria to modify plant genes that has changed modern agriculture by helping farmers grow enhanced and pest-resistant crops; and chicken breeds that have revolutionized chicken farming and helped chicken become one of the most cost-effective global sources of protein. Learn more about the previous awardees here.

Nominations for the Golden Goose Award are accepted on a rolling basis, but submissions received through December 15 will have the best chance to be considered for the 2024 award. Nominations submitted after that date will be considered for an award in future years. For helpful tips on how to submit nominations, watch this webinar or access this toolkit.

Leading Research Universities Report to Return on Monday, November 20

Due to the Veterans Day holiday, the Leading Research Universities Report will take a break from publication next week. The next edition will be released on Monday, November 20.

News of Interest

The New York Times Magazine: Longer Commutes, Shorter Lives: The Costs of Not Investing in America – In an opinion essay, David Leonhardt, senior writer for The New York Times, outlines how federal spending on scientific research and development after World War II made the United States the economic leader of the world and led to massive improvements in all areas of life, including transportation, healthcare, and computing. Yet, Leonhardt writes, federal investments in R&D have been going down since the 1980s and now Americans are paying the price with longer commutes, shorter life expectancy, and a sense that the country is in decline.

The Star Tribune: Investments in Research Pay Big Returns for Minnesota – In an opinion essay, University of Minnesota Interim President Jeff Ettinger and National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan argue that prioritizing investments in STEM education and innovative research in Minnesota can lead to a brighter future for all Minnesotans. “By prioritizing more avenues to science, engineering and tech industries … we can support successful futures for young Americans, reinvigorate regional economies and position the nation at the cutting edge,” they write.

Inside Higher Ed: In ‘Buyer’s Market,’ Tuition Increases Haven’t Outpaced Inflation – A new report from the College Board finds that “while the average dollar amount colleges charged for tuition and fees rose for the 2023-24 academic year, those increases were less than inflation rates.” The report found that net prices, “which is what students and families pay after subtracting total grant aid” also fell. Further, students borrowed less in federal loans to pay for their education as both institutional and state grant aid increased.

Miami Herald: Academic Medicine Fighting Chronic Disease Can Fix Healthcare in Florida and the World – In an opinion essay, University of Miami President Julio Frenk discusses how academic medical centers, which operate “at the intersection of research, education and care,” can help lead transformative changes in healthcare and fight the “crisis of chronic disease.”

Inside Higher Ed: Biden Administration Details Plan for Broader Debt Relief – The Department of Education released a draft proposal last week to “cancel some or all of the outstanding student loans for certain categories of borrowers, including those who have spent more than 25 years in repayment” or those “whose balances have increased beyond what they originally borrowed.”

WFIU-FM: Whitten to Invest $250 Million in Life and Health Sciences – Indiana University President Pamela Whitten announced investments of more than $250 million in two new research institutes focused on health, wellbeing, and biotechnology. Whitten said that the institutes “will spearhead research endeavors aimed at improving the health of Hoosiers, attracting investments, fostering innovative startups, and bolstering Indiana’s vibrant biotech industry.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Can More People Survive Cardiac Arrest? CDC Grant to Emory Will Help – Emory University is receiving almost $24 million in grant funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to expand its Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival (CARES) tool that collects data on cardiac arrest incidents and outcomes in local communities. The CDC funding will go toward modernizing and expanding the tool so more communities can better understand how to improve survival rates for cardiac arrest.

Featured Research

Diigital illustration of Ultrasound waves traveling through a brain

Can Ultrasound Waves Help People Quit Cocaine?

Scientists at the University of Virginia have launched “a clinical trial to see if low-intensity focused ultrasound can help reprogram brain cells to reduce the desire for cocaine.” The noninvasive approach, if successful, could change the way addictions are treated currently.

Microscopic image of a cancer cell

Cancer Drug Restores Immune System’s Ability to Fight Tumors

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a drug that, in mouse models, slowed the growth of cancerous tumors, extended lifespan, and restored “the effectiveness of immune cells in fighting cancer.” The researchers are now seeking funding to take the drug to human trials.

Stat of the Week


A graph titled Federally Funded Research and DEvelopment as a Percent of GDP

Federally Funded R&D as a Percent of GDP

In the mid-1960s, the federal government’s investments in research and development amounted to approximately 2% of the GDP. Since then, federal R&D investments have declined to less than 1% of the GDP. In 2021, according to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, federal R&D funding added up to only .66% of the GDP.

AAU calls on Congress to reverse the trend and to Fund American Science.