Biophysical Society Bulletin | November 2021

Public Affairs

The legislation authorizes 5- and 10-year spending plans for agencies under DOE’s jurisdiction, including the National Sci- ence Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Ad- ministration (NOAA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The increases are aimed at boosting research across many disciplines, including efforts to combat climate change and bolster innovation. Among the key funding increases this bill would support is an additional $15 billion for DOE over the next five years, of which almost $13 billion would be managed by its $7-billion- a-year Office of Science. NSF, which operates at a funding level of $8.5 billion per year, would be authorized to spend an additional $11 billion over the next 10 years, with some $7.6 billion spread across its eight research and education direc- torates (including a technology directorate being stood up this year) to strengthen existing programs. The Department of Commerce, the department overseeing both NIST and NOAA, would be authorized to spend $5 billion over the next decade on programs to promote regional innovation. Those programs include applied research and testing new technol- ogies that would foster economic development. In addition, NOAA would receive $4.2 billion over the next five years for myriad programs aimed at understanding and adapting to climate change. NIST would be allotted $4.2 billion over the next decade. Some $1.2 billion would be devoted to funding projects in 10 areas of technology, including artificial intel- ligence, quantum information science, and advanced man- ufacturing, which are seen as keys to economic growth and national security. Around theWorld WHO Establishes New Center with Germany toMonitor Emerging Diseases Germany and the World Health Organization (WHO) have teamed up to launch a new hub aimed at accelerating efforts to detect and respond to new disease outbreaks. The German government pledged $100 million to stand up the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, which was formally inaugurated on September 2. One goal of the project is to bring together, in real time, information on emerging public health crises—but exactly how the new hub will operate is still under discussion. To accomplish this task effectively, however, officials often need a wide range of information, including social and demo- graphic data on communities where an outbreak is occurring, travel patterns, and how people interact with animals or the environment. While there is an abundance of information available, the hub’s focus will be putting it all together and

understanding what it means. Ideally, the hub will become the foundation of a new global surveillance architecture for COVID-19 and other pathogens. Peru’s Controversial NewPresident Is Bringing High Hopes to Scientists With the surprising election of Peru’s new president, Pedro Castillo , in June, citizens are expecting some major changes to address poverty and inequality. Castillo, a former school- teacher, has appointed a leading scientist as a top adviser and said he will address systemic problems in Peruvian science, including low budgets, a weak governance system, and a lack of prospects for young researchers. He has also vowed to better manage the country’s response to the pandemic. Peru currently has one of the highest mortality rates in the world from COVID-19. In May, after he had won the first round of the elections, Cas- tillo promised to significantly increase health and education budgets, elevate science and technology’s role, and create a new science ministry. In a May 22 letter, 50 Peruvian scien- tists, most of them trained outside Peru, welcomed those proposals and urged Castillo to adopt a new national science, technology, and innovation policy. Peru’s science system, the letter said, requires “profound changes that have been postponed by governments in recent decades and that the pandemic has brought to light.” That same month, Castillo asked physicist Modesto Montoya of the National University of Engineering, one of the country’s best-known scientists, to create a panel to outline a new ca- reer path for scientists and a structure for a future Ministry of Science to replace the leadership role of the National Council of Science and Technology (CONCYTEC). The informal group met with Castillo at the presidential palace on August 27, and Montoya, who has a good relationship with the new presi- dent, was appointed presidential adviser on scientific matters on September 8. Researchers also hope the new administration will do more to stop or reverse Peru’s brain drain. The country currently offers financial incentives to bring researchers home and set them up at a Peruvian institution, but the system does not guarantee good working conditions after their arrival. Wheth- er Castillo can make good on his lofty promises remains to be seen.

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November 2021



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