U.S. Senate Finance Committee meeting on foreign influences highlights federal agency urgency without clarity

U.S. Senate Finance Committee meeting on foreign influences highlights federal agency urgency without clarity

On Wednesday, the United States Senate Finance Committee met to discuss Foreign Threats to Taxpayer – Funded Research: Oversight Opportunities and Policy Solutions. The webpage includes a video of the session (which begins approximately 30 mins in) and written testimonies from panelists in attendance. We are preparing a statement to submit to the Committee as part of the testimony – if you have points you would like us to raise or would like to provide input, please contact info@futureofresearch.org   The hearing sought to discuss, particularly with responsive federal agencies, four main issues related to taxpayer research as laid out by the Committee Chair, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA): 1) the failure to disclose receipt of foreign contributions 2) espionage – or in the words of Senator Grassley, “some researchers are spies”; 3) vetting of researchers – that the federal government does not vet researchers, and neither do institutions; and 4) integrity – addressing the discovery that some peer reviewers have shared confidential grant information.   Testimony in the first panel was heard from representatives of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Homeland Security, to answer “does the government have the capability to detect and counter these threats?” and discuss legislative and policy solutions to address the issue. Senator Grassley pointed out that the Counterintelligence unit at the FBI had declined to attend and had not explained why. A second panel consisted of a representative from the academic community.   We attempted to capture the discussion in a series of tweets, but some key points appeared to emerge. China, Iran and Russia were...
U.S. Senate Finance Committee Hearing on Foreign Influences in Research: Wednesday June 5th 9.45am Eastern

U.S. Senate Finance Committee Hearing on Foreign Influences in Research: Wednesday June 5th 9.45am Eastern

On Wednesday June 5th at 9.45am Eastern, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on “Foreign Threats to Taxpayer – Funded Research: Oversight Opportunities and Policy Solutions“.   This is part of the growing discussion about threats to research from foreign nations. NIH and institutions that it funds have recently come under scrutiny for their attempts to deal with these concerns, and the recent removal of five ethnicially Chinese researchers from 2 institutions (see “Chinese American scientists uneasy amid crackdown on foreign influence” in Nature from June 3).   You can watch the proceedings here or follow the @FORsymp twitter account which will tweet about it using #foreignresearch – we will also post a summary of the discussion (details of the schedule are at the end of this post).   Future of Research will then submit a statement for the record for the committee – if you have anything you would like us to highlight or discuss, or bring to our attention, please email info@futureofresearch.org   The Federation of American Scientists is facilitating submission of statements to the committee for the record: “To help the debate during the hearing be balanced, the Congressional Science Policy Initiative at FAS is submitting testimonials from the science community to the Committee regarding the critical contributions of foreign-born researchers to US competitiveness. We will also submit the testimonials we’ve received for the record. If you wish to also submit a statement for the record, email it to us, and we will get it to the Committee.” Note the guidance on submitting a statement: “Any individual or organization wanting to present their...
Please help us in responding to an NIH request for information on inclusion at institutions

Please help us in responding to an NIH request for information on inclusion at institutions

The Board of Directors at Future of Research has been preparing a response to the Request for Information (RFI): Institutional Accountability to Promote Inclusive Excellence (Notice Number: NOT-RM-19-001) issued recently by the National Institutes of Health, and due by June 14th 2019. However we are looking for additional input from those wishing to help us with their thoughts and critiques.   We are looking for help not only in the form of others submitting comments, but also in helping to craft our response. In promoting the call for responses, we experienced a great deal of frustration from the community – which we share – about the constant discussion about such issues without any concrete actions. We’d like to try to give voice to those frustrations, and channel it into some concrete push for action, if possible.   Therefore we have placed out draft response to questions below; we plan to do more work on preparing a final response for next week. We would be extremely grateful for any criticism you have – you can comments on this post, on social media, or email info@futureofresearch.org, and we are happy to give voice to frustrations you have, particularly if you would not feel comfortable making such comments yourself. Ultimately we hope to provide information that compels NIH to ultimately take action, and particularly to recognize the power that it has to compel institutions to do so.   In summary, NIH is looking for the following information: “Information Requested NIH seeks input from key extramural community stakeholders, including academic institutional leadership, biomedical faculty, and interested members of the public on strategies to...
FoR Chicago 2019: Mentoring Future Scientists – Join us locally or remotely to help departments focus on mentoring

FoR Chicago 2019: Mentoring Future Scientists – Join us locally or remotely to help departments focus on mentoring

If you follow academic discussions on Twitter, you may have caught sight of a discussion recently about grad school experiences prompted by Dr Kathryn Milligan-Myhre at the University of Alaska:   For those of you who had/are now having a difficult time in grad school, what support was/is lacking? If you don’t feel comfortable posting from your handle, PM me, I will post for you. — Dr. Kat Milligan-Myhre (@Napaaqtuk) March 24, 2019 What followed was a long thread of experiences and messages received by Dr. Milligan-Myhre detailing a multitude of problems including stories of power-imbalances, and departmental or institutional inaction. Stories such as these are familiar to us over at Future of Research; it’s part of the motivation behind our efforts. Having fostered this dicussion, Dr. Milligan-Myhre then posed the question to departmental staff and faculty:   Faculty/GS dept people: These stories are heartbreaking, but an accurate picture of grad school for many of our students. Next step: What are YOU going to do to make grad school experiences better for students? https://t.co/DPK8u7GqEj — Dr. Kat Milligan-Myhre (@Napaaqtuk) March 29, 2019 If you’ve been following our work over the last few months, you may be aware that FoR is organizing the Mentoring Future Scientists meeting (primarily in Chicago, but facilitating remote participation through satellite meetings) to bring together graduate students, postdocs, junior faculty and departmental leaders and representatives, to discuss what departments can do to prioritize attention to mentoring.   The importance that departments and institutions attach to supporting good mentorship, and providing mechanisms for accountability and addressing poor mentorship, have become an issue of intense scrutiny for...
Postdoc Salaries: New salary threshold for overtime proposed for Fair Labor Standards Act

Postdoc Salaries: New salary threshold for overtime proposed for Fair Labor Standards Act

The data above is from our paper “Monitoring the compliance of the academic enterprise with the Fair Labor Standards Act” showing how institutions were expecting to change salaries after the last FLSA update was blocked.   The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes standards such as minimum wage and overtime pay for employees in both the public and private sectors in the United States. Through the FLSA a minimum wage and overtime pay (for working more than 40 hours per week) at 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate are guaranteed (United States Department of Labor, 2016a). On December 1, 2016, the FLSA was due to be updated by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). One key change proposed was an increase in the annual salary threshold for exemption from overtime pay from the 2004 level of $23,660 to $47,476. The other key change was indexing the salary level so that it would be updated automatically every 3 years pegged to the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census region. On December 1st, 2016, the threshold at which salaried workers receive overtime payment for working more than 40 hours per week was due to increase from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, under updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This was delayed by an injunction granted November 22nd (see here for more information) and was declared invalid as of August 31st by the same court. The Department of Labor has now proposed a new set of updates to formally retract and replace the 2016 proposal. The proposals: would likely come into effect January 1st 2020 would raise the threshold for overtime exemption from...
Comments on proposed changes to Title IX to reopen on Feb 15th for 24 hours

Comments on proposed changes to Title IX to reopen on Feb 15th for 24 hours

This post is a modified and updated version of a post from January 2019.   The U.S. Department of Education is reopening submission for comments on changes to Title IX (Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance) for one day only on February 15th. We are urging you to contact the and submit comments; to learn more, please read on.   News: The Department of Education is reopening commenting on Title IX on February 15th only. Having already received 104,367 public comments, many from scientists and scientific organizations, comments are being reopened due to technical difficulties experienced on the last day of commenting previously. Read on to find out more, and how to comment on February 15th.   What is Title IX? Title IX protects students and employees of educational institutions from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX states that: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title IX has helped women in education in various ways.   What is happening with Title IX right now? At the moment the Secretary of Education is proposing rule changes to Title IX, which you can read in detail here, but a great summary is here at 500 Women Scientists.   Comments may be submitted on February 15th via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ED_FRDOC_0001-0830   For more information, please check out the Take Action Tuesday page at...