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COSSA Washington Update, Volume 34 Issue 17

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

NSF Seeks Nominations of Early-Career Researchers for Waterman Award

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting nominations for the 2016 Alan T. Waterman Award, which is given to an outstanding young researcher each year. Nominees are accepted from any field of science supported by NSF and must be under 35 or within 7 years of completing his or her PhD. Candidates “should have demonstrated exceptional individual achievement in scientific or engineering research of sufficient quality, originality, innovation, and significant impact on the field so as to situate him or her as a leader among peers.” The recipient of the award receives a grant of $1 million over five years for research or advanced study in any NSF-supported field of science. Nominations are due by October 23 and may be submitted here.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Census Releases New ACS Estimates

The Census Bureau has released a new set of annual data from the American Community Survey (ACS). The 2014 1-Year estimates provide information for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico on the dozens of economic, housing, social, and demographic topics covered by the ACS. The new data can be accessed here.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Social Science Teams among 2015 Golden Goose Winners

Recipients of the 2015 Golden Goose Award were honored at a ceremony in Washington, DC on September 17. The Golden Goose Award recognizes researchers whose federally funded work may have seemed odd or obscure when it was first conducted but has resulted in significant benefits to society. COSSA is a supporter of the Award. The 2015 recipients included a group of psychologists whose work on delayed gratification in children (the “marshmallow test”) had far-reaching implications for our understanding of human behavior, education, and health. The Golden Goose Award also honored two scientists whose collaborative research on “hypsographic demography” (the study of how the population is distributed with respect to altitude) that has had impacts on areas from manufacturing to cancer research.

The ceremony featured remarks for several congressional supporters of the Golden Goose Award, including Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN), who helped found the awards, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), and Robert Dold (R-IL). Sen. Coons applauded the Award for highlighting the “crucial and unpredictable” insights research can provide. Rep. Dold acknowledged the responsibility of Congress to ensure adequate research funding and suggested legislators should be thinking about doubling the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) once more.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Events Calendar

A list of COSSA members’ annual meetings and other events can be found on the COSSA website. COSSA members who have an upcoming event they would like to see listed in the Events Calendar and on our website should send an email to jmilton@cossa.org.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

White House SBS Team Issues Inaugural Report; President Signs Executive Order

photo (1)On September 15, President Obama signed an Executive Order calling on federal agencies and departments to use “behavioral science insights” to “design government policies to better serve the American people.” The order comes as the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST), a team of about a dozen behavioral scientists within the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), issued its first annual report. SBST was established in 2014 as a mechanism for testing and applying social and behavioral science interventions to make government programs more efficient and more accessible. The team is chaired by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with participation by a dozen federal agencies, departments, and White House offices.

The SBST 2015 Annual Report describes several efforts taken in partnership with federal agencies to streamline access to federal programs and to improve government program efficiency. Activities include increasing the number of servicemembers saving for retirement, boosting college enrollment, staving-off student loan default among vulnerable groups, and assisting farmers with obtaining credit.

The Executive Order signed by the President makes SBST a permanent part of the federal government and encourages federal agencies to work with the team to identify programs, policies and operations that could benefit from behavioral science insights and develop strategies for applying them; recruit behavioral scientists into federal service; and “strengthen agency relationships with the research community to better use empirical findings from the behavioral sciences.”

As OSTP Director and Assistant to the President for Science and Technology John Holdren stated during a White House event on September 15, “social and behavioral sciences are real science, [and] abundantly warrant support in the federal science and technology budget.” Other senior Obama Administration officials spoke at the event, which COSSA attended, in support of SBST and social and behavioral science research, including Shaun Donovan, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), who talked about building an evidence agenda that not only identifies “what works,” but also acts on that knowledge to implement best practices.

Those interested in collaborating with the team—such as on a specific program evaluation and/or through a fellowship or other employment opportunity—can register with the team on the new SBST website (http://sbst.gov).

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Advocates Call for Budget Deal as End of Fiscal Year Nears

One week out from the start of fiscal year (FY) 2016 and Congress has yet to decide on a path forward for funding the government that will not result in a government shutdown come October 1. A continuing resolution (CR) must be enacted in the next week to allow Congress the time it needs to complete the 12 outstanding FY 2016 appropriations bills.

Language of a short term CR could surface in the Senate as early as today. Even still, with the arrival of Pope Francis in the nation’s capital this week and a short Congressional break to observe Yom Kippur, only a handful of days separate Congress from a shutdown. Work is almost certain to continue into the weekend. And there are no guarantees that a “clean” CR floated by the Senate could pass the House, which has members still clamoring for action to defund Planned Parenthood.

Getting to October 1 is just the start; Congress must still complete the FY 2016 appropriations process in some way. But first, lawmakers on both sides are calling for broader budget negotiations to reverse sequestration. Until that happens, the FY 2016 funding bills remain in limbo. One possible outcome is that Congress will be unable to broker a broad deal and we will end up with a yearlong CR that funds the government at FY 2015 levels, thereby locking in sequestration (the tight budget caps currently in effect) for yet another year.

On September 10, COSSA joined 2,500 national, state, and local organizations on a letter to Congress urging relief from sequestration in FY 2016 by taking a balanced approach to deficit reduction. In particular, the letter notes the cuts that have already been taken to nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs, which include research funding.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Senior Leadership Changes Occurring at NIH

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have been experiencing a turnover in the leadership over the past month as several long-term directors have decided to retire and/or move on to new endeavors.

guttmacher In August, Alan Guttmacher, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), announced his plans to retire at the end of September. The Friends of NICHD paid tribute to Guttmacher on September 15 with a farewell breakfast in recognition of his dedication and leadership in advancing science and improving human health and well-being. COSSA serves on the Friends Executive Committee.

As director of one of the few NIH institutes with a “friends” group, Guttmacher always made a point of expressing his appreciation for the Friends’ ability to collectively advocate on behalf of the Institute despite the breadth of its mission and diverse research portfolio.

Speaking on behalf of the Friends and the social and behavioral science research community in particular, Howard Kurtzman, Acting Executive Director for Science at the American Psychological Association, expressed the community’s appreciation for Guttmacher’s service during his tenure at NIH, which has included the release of NICHD’s Scientific Vision statement (See Update, December 10, 2012). He also noted that many in the social and behavioral science community were “very pleased that this Scientific Vision maintained NICHD’s broad approach to human development, covering topics from pregnancy and reproduction, to neural plasticity and rehabilitation, to population dynamics.”

Guttmacher, a pediatrician and geneticist, also served as NIH director Francis Collins’ deputy director at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and its Acting Director when Collins became NIH’s director. In 2010, Collins appointed him director of NICHD.

Recently appointed NICHD deputy director and former NICHD scientific director Catherine Spong has been appointed acting director of the Institute. A national search for a new director is underway.

inselAlso on September 15, Collins announced that National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) director Thomas Insel would be stepping down on November 1, 2015. Insel will be joining the Google Life Sciences (GLS) team at Alphabet (formerly Google) to lead a new effort that will focus on mental health. GLS’ mission is “to create technology for earlier detection, better prevention, and more effective management of serious health conditions.” Insel’s new role will include “exploring this approach for a wide spectrum of issues in mental health.”

NIMH Acting Deputy Director Bruce Cuthbert will serve as Acting Director. Cuthbert, the director of Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) unit, has held a number of leadership positions at NIMH.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

NIH Releases Precision Medicine Initiative Framework for Cohort of One Million

pmiOn September 17, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) presented its recommended design framework for building a national research participant group, or “cohort,” of one million or more Americans, that would be part of the President’s proposed Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) (see Update, April 21, 2015 and June 15,2015).

In a statement accepting the ACD’s recommendations, NIH Director Francis Collins pointed to the need to remain nimble and adaptable as the Initiative progresses. The agency intends to move quickly to build the necessary infrastructure so that participants can begin enrolling in the cohort in 2016. The long-term goal is to enroll at least 1 million participants in three to four years. (more…)

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Perez-Stable Joins NIMHD Participates in First Advisory Council Meeting

Just two weeks into his new position, newly appointed National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) director Eliseo Perez-Stable presided over his first meeting of the National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NACMHD) on September 17. Perez-Stable was appointed by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins in April (See Update, May 4, 2015).

Perez-Stable shared his excitement to be at the NIH and his appreciation for the opportunity to work on a topic that he is passionate about. As a resident, he was interested in Latino health care, particularly patient-doctor communication styles, which guided him down his professional path. (more…)

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

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