FABBS Endorses Legislation to Support Early Career Scholars and Provide Research Relief During COVID and Calls for Research on Systemic Racism in Academia

September 10, 2020

On Wednesday, September 9, the Research and Technology Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (HSST) held a hearing on the ‘Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on University Research’. Chaired by Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Ranking Member Jim Baird (R-IN), the hearing featured four university representatives, including a PhD student, articulating the consequences of COVID-19 on innovation, researchers, and students. Members also discussed two pieces of legislation.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Chairwoman of HSST, and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), Ranking Member, introduced the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act. The bipartisan bill establishes a new two-year pilot fellowship program ($250 million per year) at the National Science Foundation to help postdoctoral researchers weather the disruptions in the academic job market caused by the COVID crisis. The proposal is intended to support “highly qualified early-career investigators to carry out an independent research program at the institution of higher education chosen by such investigator.” FABBS has endorsed this legislation.

In addition, the Committee discussed the bipartisan Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE), which authorizes $26 billion in emergency relief for federal science agencies to award to research universities and other organizations to continue federally-supported research projects. The bill also authorizes support for “grants and cooperative agreements to institutions of higher education to conduct research on the behavioral, social, or economic effects of COVID-19 and the responses to the disease or on the effectiveness of such responses.” A companion bill (S. 4286) has been introduced in the Senate. FABBS endorsed this legislation, issued an action alert to our society members and faculty affiliates, and continues to work with sister scientific societies to encourage Congress to provide relief for consequences of COVID-19 on the research infrastructure.

FABBS joined Chairwoman Johnson and over 70 sister scientific societies on a letter to the National Academy of Sciences, requesting that NASEM conduct a study on the impact of systemic racism on science, engineering and medical education and the workforce. Johnson has sponsored an amendment to pending appropriations legislation that would allocate $1.5 million for the study.