FAS Roundup: U.F.O.s, USCIS, and U.S. R&D

By July 1, 2021

News You Can Use This Week: Three Studies, One Result: Vaccines Point the Way Out of the Pandemic

How and why vaccines work. From The New York Times:

“Three scientific studies released on Monday offered fresh evidence that widely used vaccines will continue to protect people against the coronavirus for long periods, possibly for years, and can be adapted to fortify the immune system still further if needed.”


Highlights from FAS Experts: The Shortcomings of Intelligence, Green Card Recapture, Science Councils, and more


The Truth Has Not Always Been Out There

“Government secrecy has acted as a spur toward conspiratorial thinking, and it has aggravated that tendency in some sectors of the American public – it’s not just limited to U.F.O.s,” Project on Government Secrecy Director Steven Aftergood tells The New York Times. 

U.S. Intelligence Agencies Are Trying to Solve Scientific Mysteries and Failing Badly

“It is the role of intelligence to identify and characterize threats to the nation and to sift what is likely true from what is probably false, but the public has gotten very little useful or meaningful information from our intelligence agencies,” Steven Aftergood tells Buzzfeed News

Stop the Incinerator: The High Cost of Green Card Slots Going Unused and the Benefits of Recapturing Them

Administrative errors have caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of unused green cards. This is costing the U.S. billions in economic growth, argue Technology and Innovation Initiative Director Doug Rand and policy analyst Lindsay Milliken in a new paper for the Niskanen Center.

The Department of Energy Can Be a Model for Diverse Startup Pipelines

“Barriers to inclusive entrepreneurship prevent the United States from achieving its full potential as the world’s foremost engine of economic growth and technology innovation,” writes Doug Rand in The Hill. 

FAS Launches New Science Council in Collaboration With Congressman Bill Foster

Last week, FAS, in collaboration with Congressman Bill Foster (D, IL-11), launched a new Science Council to scale up capacity and facilitate the contribution of nonpartisan, evidence-based information into policymaking. Imagine a Congress in which every member is hardwired into the U.S. science community with on-demand access to evidence-based research and analysis, and how that would improve public policy outcomes. Learn more about FAS’ new Science Council here.


Read Newly Released Policy Proposals from the Day One Project


A National Cloud for Conducting Disinformation Research at Scale

Online disinformation campaigns are wreaking havoc. From Civic Innovation Lab Director Saiph Savage, PIT Policy Lab Founder and CEO Cristina Martínez Pinto, and the Day One Project, a plan for a one-year pilot of a National Cloud for Disinformation Research armed with the data, tools, and computational resources needed to fight back.

The “FASTER” Act for the Federal Laboratory System
To advance American research and development, federal labs should work to better leverage talent, think about place, and prioritize efforts to drive innovation. From Association of University Research Parks CEO Brian Darmody, BioHealth Innovation, Inc Founder and CEO Rich Bendis, and the Day One Project, a proposal for a bill that would allow federal labs to use tested tools that universities use.


Deep Dive: International Entrepreneur Rule

Lindsay Milliken and Doug Rand on why the resuscitated International Entrepreneur Rule would be good for American business and competitiveness.

Immigrant entrepreneurs have played a remarkably outsize role in the growth of the U.S. economy. More than half of the country’s billion-dollar startups were founded by immigrants, and 80% employ immigrants in a management role or in core product design. Consider America’s first four trillion-dollar companies, which together employ nearly 700,000 people in the United States: One was cofounded by an immigrant (Google), two were founded by the children of immigrants (Amazon and Apple), and one is currently run by an immigrant (Microsoft). Immigrants to the U.S have won 39% of the country’s Nobel Prizes, hold 28% of high-impact patents, and earn 31% of the PhDs from American universities, all while comprising only 18% of the American workforce. While native-born Americans are also highly talented, America’s reputation for innovation and scientific excellence brings the world’s best and brightest to our doorstep.

But global competition for these highly skilled professionals is becoming much more intense. Many countries, like the U.K., Australia, and Canada, have implemented immigration pathways specifically for entrepreneurs or, like China, have developed aggressive talent recruitment programs. One Canadian business even launched an ad campaign in California last year to convince tech workers uncertain about their immigration status to abandon their U.S. visa applications and move north.

Despite this rise of global competitors, the U.S. has no “startup visa” specifically for entrepreneurs. While the U.S. Congress has considered but failed to pass such a measure for more than a decade, almost 40 other countries all over the world have rolled out their own programs to poach global entrepreneurial talent. 

It’s not all bad news, though: The Biden Administration recently announced its intention to fully implement the International Entrepreneur Rule. Initiated in the final days of the Obama Administration, this measure gives the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security authority to grant temporary permission to live and work here for those who could provide “a significant public benefit” to the United States. The International Entrepreneur Rule allows promising startup founders to meet that standard by hitting milestones in U.S. job creation, capital investment, or revenue. 

Effective implementation must include significant long-term outreach to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of founders, investors, universities, and accelerators. Policymakers should make sure that the whole process is relatively smooth and speedy for those who qualify. The stakes are high: We estimate that in the most optimistic scenario, the International Entrepreneur Rule could generate more than 1 million jobs over 10 years.

While the federal government works to publicize and improve this administrative pathway, it is vital that Congress also take action to welcome international entrepreneurs on a permanent basis—not only by enacting a startup visa bill, but also by ensuring that every would-be entrepreneur has a fair shot at success. That means providing a path to citizenship for Dreamers, H-1B workers, and other immigrants already contributing to our economy for years, as well as enough green cards to fully meet the needs of U.S. families and employers.

Elected leaders must continue to make every effort to accelerate an equitable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Making it easier for the world’s entrepreneurs to create jobs in America is one tool to do so, and it’s a no-brainer. 

Adapted from “We need this rule to keep foreign-born founders in the U.S.” by Lindsay Milliken and Doug Rand for Fast Company.

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