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Congress Returns with Much Left Undone

Congress returns to work this week for one more stretch before the November elections. This will be the final work period before the current fiscal year (FY 2016) expires on September 30. That means some type of action is needed in the coming weeks to keep the federal government funded and operating come October 1. See COSSA’s analysis of the state of play of FY 2017 Appropriations bills for full details.

In addition to action on the annual spending bills (which will undoubtedly result in a continuing resolution punting final action to after the election), Congress will be looking to enact funding for the Zika crisis and a handful of other pressing issues over the next few weeks; these efforts will consume every available minute between now and the next recess. That means the 114th Congress is likely to adjourn at the end of the year with several bills impacting the social and behavioral sciences left on the table. This includes a number of authorization bills of consequence to the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Institute of Education Sciences. COSSA summarizes the State of Play of Authorization Bills in an analysis released last month.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 6), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

HOT TOPIC: Reducing the Regulatory Burden on Federally-Funded Researchers

COSSA has released a new publication in its HOT TOPICS series, Reducing the Regulatory Burden on Federally-Funded Researchers. HOT TOPICS are periodic, featured articles prepared by COSSA staff members offering insights into timely issues important to the social and behavioral science community. This edition was written by Camille Hosman, who joined the COSSA team earlier this year.

The report provides an overview of some of the major efforts made in recent years to better understand issues of regulatory burden and to begin to develop roadmaps for addressing it. While there is no shortage of ideas, given the complexity of the topic and the many players– federal agencies, Congress, research institutions, and researchers themselves– the path to relief is less clear.Read on for the full report.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 9), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

State of Play: FY 2017 Funding for Social Science Research

Congress has adjourned for a seven-week recess and will not be returning to work until after Labor Day. Despite promises for a return to “regular order” in the annual appropriations process, we find ourselves in familiar territory with none of the 12 annual spending bills expected to be enacted into law before the new fiscal year begins October 1. In fact, none of the bills that fund research agencies and programs (the Commerce, Justice Science bill and the Labor, HHS, Education bill) have yet to make it to the House or Senate floors for debate.

Upon returning to work in September, Congress will be faced with a full plate of must-pass legislation and a limited number of days before breaking again for the fall elections. Among the countless unknowns surrounding a possible endgame strategy for appropriations is one certainty – the need to pass a stopgap funding measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), to avoid a government shutdown come October 1. The length of the impending CR, though, is still up for debate. Scenarios range from a CR of a couple of months with final action completed in the December timeframe (forcing a lame duck session of Congress after the November elections), to a six-month-long CR that would delay action until after the new Administration and Congress are sworn in, to possibly a year-long continuing resolution that would fund agencies at the FY 2016 level through the end of next fiscal year. These details will need to be sorted out over the next several weeks, and consensus remains far-off. However, all parties appear equally committed to avoiding a government shutdown.

COSSA has been reporting on the status of the FY 2017 appropriations bills over the last several months. Read on for a recap of progress made to date as it relates to social and behavioral science research. Congress will pick up where it left off when Members return to work in September. Full details on the various bills considered so far can be viewed on the COSSA website.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 26), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Preliminary Details of House Labor-HHS Bill Released

On July 7, the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee passed its fiscal year (FY) 2017 appropriations bill for agencies and programs under its jurisdiction, which include the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Department of Education, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), among others. While text of the draft appropriations bill was released to coincide with the Subcommittee markup, the Committee Report is not expected to be released until the bill is marked up by the full Appropriations Committee on Wednesday (July 13).

Read on for preliminary details of the bill’s proposals for agencies important to the social and behavioral sciences, and check back later in the week for a full analysis of the bill and report language. (more…)

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 12), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Senate Introduces “COMPETES” Reauthorization Bill

On June 22, Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced the bipartisan American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S. 3084), which is the Senate’s version of America COMPETES Act reauthorization legislation. As COSSA has been reporting, the America COMPETES Act is legislation originally enacted in 2007 to bolster U.S. investment in basic scientific research at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other federal science agencies. The House’s efforts to reauthorize COMPETES took a negative turn in recent years, resulting in legislation that would decimate federal funding for social science research and dismantle the peer review process as we currently know it. In contrast, the bill introduced in the Senate last week looks to support—not undercut—NSF’s grant-making infrastructure.

The Senate bill is scheduled to be marked up by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on June 29.  Read on for highlights of S. 3084.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 28), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Senate Presses Forward on 2017 Spending Bills

The Senate Appropriations Committee has been making progress over the last several weeks on its fiscal year (FY) 2017 appropriations bills in an effort to pass as many of the bills as possible before heading home in mid-July for the party conventions and August recess (follow all of the developments on the COSSA website).  The FY 2017 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill, which made it out of Committee on April 21, is expected to be on the Senate floor later this week. Stay tuned – COSSA will be closely monitoring the floor debate as this is when we could see amendments that could harm social science research accounts.

In addition, on June 9, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported out the FY 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bill. This bill serves as the vehicle for annual appropriations for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Education (ED), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as well as many other federal departments and agencies. Committee members noted that this bill represents the first bipartisan Senate Labor-HHS bill in seven years; this tends to be one of the more controversial and divisive of the 12 appropriations bills given that it provides funding for the Department of Health and Human Services and sections of the Affordable Care Act. The House has yet to release its version of the bill, but is rumored to have something ready by the end of the month.

Check out COSSA’s in-depth analysis for full details.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 14), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

House Bill Includes Flat Funding for NSF, Boosts for NIJ, BJS, and Census

On May 24, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Bill. This bill serves as the vehicle for annual appropriations for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Census Bureau, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and countless other federal departments and agencies. The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced its version of the CJS bill on April 21.

The House bill would provide NSF with a total budget of $7.4 billion in FY 2017, slightly below the FY 2016 level of $7.46 billion. Most notably, the bill does not include language targeting social science accounts for cuts, as we saw last year. In addition, the House bill would provide NIJ and BJS with $40 million (+11%) and $48 billion (+17%), respectively, and $1.47 billion for the Census Bureau, an increase of 7.3 percent over the FY 2016 level, but 10 percent below the amount requested by the President.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis.

You can keep up-to-date on the status of FY 2017 funding for social science research agencies on the COSSA website.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 31), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Senate Committee Discusses U.S. Science Investments; COMPETES Bill Expected Soon

On May 11, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing entitled, “Leveraging the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise.”  The Committee heard from a panel of experts in science and engineering representing the university and private sectors. The hearing was designed to inform the Committee’s efforts as it works to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, which is legislation originally enacted in 2007 to bolster U.S. investment in basic scientific research. The Committee has oversight jurisdiction for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other basic science agencies.

Read on for full details and check out COSSA’s complete coverage of COMPETES legislation in the House and Senate.

Last year, Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) created a working group of committee members tasked with engaging the scientific community and crafting legislation akin to the original COMPETES bill. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) chaired the working group, which hosted a number of roundtable discussions with stakeholders in 2015 (COSSA’s comments to the working group can be found here). Peters noted one common theme among the input received – modest, sustained and predictable investments in basic science are needed. Thune stated that a bill may be released in the coming days.

Kelvin Droegemeier, Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma and former Vice Chair of the National Science Board, made three recommendations for the Committee to consider when crafting legislation governing the U.S. scientific enterprise. First, the federal government should focus its investments on where it adds unique value, such as its support for basic science and innovation. Adding that there are “no sure bets” when it comes to determining which basic research investments will yield the next big innovation, Droegemeier warned against excluding support for any one discipline, such as the social and behavioral sciences. He used his own area of expertise in meteorology to illustrate an example of the value social and behavioral science research brings to human-centered challenges, such as responding (or not responding) to tornado warnings.

Second, Dr. Droegemeier suggested that legislation seek to reduce administrative burden associated with applying for and managing federal research grants, consistent with legislation currently being considered in the House and Senate and findings of the National Academies. Finally, he argued for science agency budgets to be more predictable so they may able to plan strategically for the future. COMPETES offers an opportunity to think big, even in times of budget constraints; it allows an opportunity to reinvest in basic research in all fields of science across the enterprise, Droegemeier added.

Jeanette Wing, Corporate Vice President for Research at Microsoft, testified on behalf of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which produced the report, Restoring the Foundation: The Vital Role of Research in Preserving the America Dream.” The report offers a set of recommendations to achieve three objectives: (1) secure America’s leadership in science and engineering research—especially basic research—by providing sustainable federal funding and setting long term investment goals; (2) ensure that the American people receive the maximum benefit from federal investments in research; and (3) regain America’s standing as an innovation leader by establishing a more robust national government-university-industry research partnership. Among the recommendations is to provide annual real growth of at least 4 percent for U.S. basic research. It further calls for a reaffirmation of the merit-based peer review process and ensuring that research decisions are left to scientific experts and agencies (a reference to what has been happening in the House). She too noted the importance of social and behavioral science research, calling it “critical for understanding the challenges we face as a country.” She added that the business community supports all of the recommendations of the report, citing the statement “Innovation: An American Imperative,” which was endorsed by CEOs of major U.S. corporations and calls on the federal government to establish research as a national priority.

Robert Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), argued that it is “no longer enough to just fund scientific research,” stating that more efficiency is needed to ensure new knowledge is being translated into innovation. He argued for increased funding for manufacturing and commercialization and he endorsed the Manufacturing Universities Act of 2015 (S. 771), which would designate institutions of higher education as “manufacturing universities” eligible for targeted funding. He also called for reforms to the SBIR program and increased investment in the Manufacturing Extension Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, high performance computing, and STEM talent and high-skilled immigration, particularly computer science education.

David Munson, Dean of Engineering at the University of Michigan, suggested that the greatest inefficiency in the U.S. research system is the low funding rates at U.S. science agencies, which force researchers to spend a large fraction of their time writing proposals and away from their research. Noting that about one in three proposals submitted for funding are excellent and merit funding, increasing the NSF budget by 50 percent could bring the funding rate up from 20 percent to about one-third. Further, increased research budgets would drive down the number proposals being submitted, saving time and effort for both researchers and agency staff, thereby increasing efficiency.

Several of the questions from the Committee centered on research priority setting. Dr. Droegemeier endorsed NSF’s current process for prioritizing research investments, which considers national needs and input from the scientific community. He cautioned against picking winners among the scientific disciplines and instead highlighted the value of providing an opportunity for researchers to present their big ideas, regardless of discipline. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) went a step further and asked if all federal research is of equal value, adding that “the answer can’t be yes.” Dr. Atkinson, whose organization has be vocal about prioritizing certain research areas at the expense of others, responded by suggesting that not all research is equal and that a purely bottom up (i.e. PI-driven) approach to identifying research questions is not the way to go since some areas of research will have a bigger economic impact than others. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) added to this line of questioning by asserting that federal funding should be “guided by the possibilities promised by science and technology and not by politics,” pointing to the approach taken by the House Science Committee through its version of COMPETES. He added, “Legislation should support the full range of science inquiry.”

Another common question was about the role of the federal government versus private industry relative to basic research. According to Dr. Wing, the federal government’s unique role is to fund the basic research that can be later brought to market by industry. She added that basic research supported by the federal government produces the talent (i.e. workforce) that is needed by industry. Dr. Droegemeier added that basic research is unpredictable, high-risk, and uncertain, which are not attractive characteristics to industry, making it a necessary function of the federal government. Sen. Peters asked if it would be harmful to target funding to specific applications or purposes. Dr. Munson suggested a balanced approach, noting that we should not lose the basic nature of research, but that targeted investment in certain areas is warranted, such as manufacturing.

Members also asked questions about the STEM workforce, improving participation of women and underrepresented minorities in science, and better coordination of agency research activities.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 17), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Senate Bill Seeks Flat Funding for NSF, NIJ for FY 2017

On April 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Bill. This bill serves as the vehicle for annual appropriations for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Census Bureau, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and countless other federal departments and agencies. The next step for the CJS bill is consideration on the Senate floor, which has not yet been scheduled.

The bill would provide NSF with a total budget of $7.5 billion in FY 2017, flat with the FY 2016 enacted level. Most notably the Senate bill does not include language singling out social science (or any other scientific disciplines) for cuts or preferential treatment, as we saw last year in the House bill. However, there is language calling on NSF to include criteria in its merit review process considering a project’s potential for advancing U.S. “national security and economic interests.” Further, NIJ and BJS would be held flat for another year at $36 million and $41 million, respectively. Finally, the Census Bureau would receive an increase, but not the amount requested by the Administration for the continued ramp up to the 2020 Decennial Census.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis.

You can keep up-to-date on the status of FY 2017 funding for social science research agencies on the COSSA website.

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Posted in Issue 9 (May 3), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Researchers Discuss Projects Targeted by Wastebooks at Capitol Hill Poster Exhibition

cpr 4-13On April 13, the COSSA-led Coalition to Promote Research (CPR) and the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) sponsored a Congressional exhibition and reception, “Wasteful” Research? Looking Beyond the Abstract, designed to provide researchers whose work had been targeted in the various Congressional “wastebook” publications an opportunity to put their research into context for Members of Congress and their staff. The unique Congressional exhibition and reception featured nine researchers from across the disciplinary spectrum. Also presented were posters on the peer/merit review process by National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Participating researchers included: Aletha Akers, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Karen Ingersoll, University of Virginia School of Medicine; Jeff Leips, University of Maryland Baltimore County; Frederick Muench, Northwell Health, New York; Sheila Patek, Duke University; Kimberley Philips, Trinity University; Narayan Sastry, University of Michigan; David Scholnick, Pacific University, Oregon; and Megan Tracy, James Madison University. Joshua Shiode of AAAS provided information on the Golden Goose Awards along with this year’s first announced recipients of the 2016 award for the Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health, recently renamed the Longitudinal Study on Adult Health (Add Health). (more…)

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 19), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

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