AAAS Report on U.S. R&D and Innovation

The American Association for the Advancement of Science released a report this week on major trends in R&D and related innovation metrics. According to the report, “The U.S. position remains strong, but public investments are stagnant: the U.S. is now 6th in total R&D intensity, 13th in government R&D, 10th in basic science intensity, and 17th in researchers as a share of the workforce. China has not yet caught up to the U.S. in R&D, but it leads the world in published output in math and physical science and engineering, and increasingly produces high-value patents.” A few noteworthy findings from the report:

  • China may surpass the U.S. in R&D investment in five years.
  • The U.S. has just above 1.5 million researchers, second to China’s over 2 million researchers.
  • The U.S. is 6th in R&D intensity – R&D as a share of GDP – behind Israel, Korea, Taiwan, and Germany since the 1990s.
  • The U.S. continues to lead in cited life sciences publications but is being outpaced by China when it comes to citations for physical sciences and engineering.

The Bipartisan Innovation Act Conference Committee Meets

On Thursday, May 12, the Joint House-Senate Conference Committee began negotiations on the Bipartisan Innovation Act. As mentioned in previous Washington Insights and Highlights Newsletters, both the House of Representatives and Senate passed their respective innovations bills. These bills would authorize funding for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and provide subsidies to the semiconductor industry to restart domestic production of semiconductor chips. During the conference committee meeting, conferees from both parties stress the need to reestablish domestic production of semiconductor chips and the theft of intellectual property by foreign actors, such as China.

In March 2021, CGS joined other higher education associations in a letter to House and Senate leaders that outlined the communities’ legislative priorities for a conference committee agreement.

National Security Experts Address Need to Ease Immigration for Foreign Science Talent

A group of national security experts sent a letter to House and Senate leadership this week requesting a fix to bottlenecks in the U.S. immigration system. They write, “Global STEM talent drives American leadership in critical sectors that underpin the defense industrial base, from computing to aerospace. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. graduate students in artificial intelligence (AI) and semiconductor-related programs were born abroad. The U.S. remains the most desirable destination for the world’s best international scientists and engineers — a feat that China, despite extensive investments, has not come close to replicating. In today’s technology competition, the most powerful and enduring asymmetric advantage America has is its ability to attract and retain the world’s best and brightest.” The letter is in response to the conference committee on the Bipartisan Innovation Act.

Congress Strengthens NIH’s Ability to Address Harassment in Funded Activities

Earlier this week, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a press release on the agency’s efforts to end sexual harassment in the biomedical workforce. In 2018, a National Academies report found “no evidence that current policies, procedures, and approaches have significantly reduced sexual harassment in academic sciences, engineering, and medicine.”

Following the release of this report and congressional legislation, NIH and other federal research agencies instituted policies to respond to harassment and sexual harassment in the scientific workplace. “Guided by recommendations from the NIH Advisory Committee to then- Director Francis Collins, NIH implemented a number of changes aimed at ending harassment in all its forms – within the agency’s workforce and at the institutions funded by the agency.” These efforts included: (1) demonstrating accountability and transparency; (2) clarifying NIH’s expectations that funded institutions ensure a safe workplace free of harassment; and (3) establishing clear channels of communication to NIH to report harassment. The enactment of the 2022 Consolidate Appropriations Act (P.L. 117-103) has allowed NIH to take additional action in responding to and combatting harassment and sexual harassment in the biomedical workplace. The enacted law “mandates the NIH Director to require NIH-funded institutions to report to the NIH when individuals identified as principal investigator (PI) or as key personnel in an NIH notice of award are removed from their position or otherwise disciplined due to concerns about harassment, bullying, retaliation, or hostile working conditions.” Effective July 8, 2022, NIH is requiring notification by the Authorized Organization Representative at NIH-funded institutions within 30 days of the removal or disciplinary action against PI or key personnel.

Department of Energy Office of Science Director Confirmed by Senate

This week the Senate confirmed Dr. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe as the Director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy. Dr. Berhe is a Professor of Soil Biogeochemistry; the Ted and Jan Falasco Chair in Earth Sciences and Geology; and Interim Associate Dean for Graduate Education at the University of California, Merced. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said, “I am so grateful to the Senate for confirming Dr. Asmeret Berhe to serve as DOE’s Director of the Office of Science. Dr. Berhe has been ahead of the curve over her entire career as a biogeochemist, and we need her leadership in scientific collaboration and climate science now more than ever. In her role, she will be leading DOE’s efforts to strengthen America’s national security, competitiveness, and economy through deep investment in scientific research. I am very grateful for Dr. Berhe’s willingness to serve the American people and I’m so excited to welcome her into the DOE family.”