From the Executive Director
COSSA at 30!
The Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) turned 30 in 2011. Born in another era of ideologically driven budget cutting that would have severely reduced funding for social and behavioral science research at the National Science Foundation, COSSA has thrived and survived for three decades now.
We have dealt with five presidential administrations, 15 Congresses of all political combinations, nine NSF directors, six NIH directors, seven presidential science advisers, five Assistant Directors for NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate, which COSSA helped create, four directors of NIH’s Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), which COSSA helped persuade Congress to create, and countless other officials and staff in both the Executive and Legislative branches.
From the beginning COSSA did not operate alone. The founding disciplinary associations sought help from other membership groups and universities. In the original fight against the Reagan budget cuts, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the higher education community in Washington were key allies. With COSSA’s leadership of the Coalition for National Science Funding in the late 1990s, support broadened to include all sectors of the science community, particularly in battles to eliminate the SBE directorate, both in 1995-96 and again in 2005-06. This cooperation continues today as COSSA worked with these groups in 2011 on preventive measures against any further attacks on the SBE sciences.
COSSA has been blessed with support from its constituents on campuses and in research centers and institutes. They have answered the call from us to contact Congress and federal agencies, to testify for us in hearings, and to participate in the many congressional briefings COSSA has presented over the years. I want to mention a special few. The late Tom Juster, an economist from the University of Michigan, was COSSA’s go-to guy in the early years. He helped enormously by testifying and supporting COSSA’s efforts to convince Congress and the Reagan administration of the worth of our sciences. Al Blumstein, criminologist from Carnegie Mellon, has been COSSA’s President, longest-serving member of the Board, COSSA witness at appropriations hearings, and multiple-time speaker at both the COSSA Annual Meeting and COSSA Congressional Sessions. Finally, COSSA’s current President, Ken Prewitt, was “present at the creation,” an enormous help during his presidencies of the Social Science Research Council, a partner during his leadership of the Census Bureau, and now again a collaborator in his role as Chair of the National Academies’ Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education.
During COSSA’s 30 years, many talented people have served on its staff. Many have moved on to play important roles in the federal government or other associations. I want to especially thank COSSA’s current Deputy Director Angela Sharpe. Now in her 17th year at COSSA, Angela has led the Consortium’s efforts in the health and behavior arena. She continues to co-chair two COSSA-led coalitions and has been instrumental in COSSA’s efforts to enhance diversity in the sciences.
The leaders of COSSA’s Governing Members, who make up the Executive Committee, and the people who have served on COSSA’s Board of Directors during the past thirty years have also contributed mightily to the success of the operation.
In 2011, COSSA celebrated this milestone with a Colloquium that looked back at the many contributions that the social and behavioral sciences have made to public policy. We also looked ahead. As Tom Mann of the Brookings Institution and Rep. David Price told the gathering, the current political landscape has made support for many federal programs precarious. At the same time, NSF Director Subra Suresh noted the relevance, importance, and centrality of the social sciences and named the seamless integration of the social sciences with the natural science and engineering as the key to the science future. There is more about the colloquium in the following pages.
Also at the event, we were delighted to present four COSSA Founders Awards to Ken Prewitt; Roberta Balstad, COSSA’s first Executive Director; Tom Mann; and John Hammer, who led the Linguistic Society of America at the time of COSSA’s founding.
COSSA’s vigilance during the past thirty years has remained steadfast in promoting and protecting the social and behavioral sciences. We anticipated some difficulties in 2011, but for a number of reasons -- including prevention activities by COSSA, its members, and allies-- these did not occur. The climate for difficulty still remains and COSSA will continue its advocacy, hopefully for the next thirty years and beyond. As always, we thank our members for their continuing support for COSSA and its activities.
Howard J. Silver March, 2012
Prior Years' Annual Reports