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Half the Size

The two US Department of Agriculture research agencies that relocated to Kansas City are now half the size they used to be, NPR reports.

In August 2018, then-USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the department's Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture would be moved outside DC. Critics questioned the idea, arguing that the agencies' distance from Washington, DC, would limit their effectiveness. The agency went ahead with relocating them to Kansas City, but many researchers in those agencies declined to move and there have since been delays in the release of reports and more.

NPR now notes that, despite an aggressive hiring push, the USDA research agencies are smaller than they used to be and that researchers there are juggling more work. "I've gone from running two or three programs to five, six, seven programs. We're two years behind. I can't keep up. In a situation where I'm just not happy anymore," NIFA's Desiree Rucker tells it.

Laura Dodson, the acting vice president of the ERS employees' union, tells NPR that Tom Vilsack, President Biden's nominee to lead USDA, could alleviate part of the problem by allowing new hires to be in either DC or Kansas City.

The Scan

Renewed Gain-of-Function Worries

The New York Times writes that the pandemic is renewing concerns about gain-of-function research.

Who's Getting the Patents?

A trio of researchers has analyzed gender trends in biomedical patents issued between 1976 and 2010 in the US, New Scientist reports.

Other Uses

CBS Sunday Morning looks at how mRNA vaccine technology could be applied beyond SARS-CoV-2.

PLOS Papers Present Analysis of Cervicovaginal Microbiome, Glycosylation in Model Archaea, More

In PLOS this week: functional potential of the cervicovaginal microbiome, glycosylation patterns in model archaea, and more.