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House to vote on COMPETES Act

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806) tomorrow, May 20. The bill, which authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other science agencies, has faced criticism from the scientific community. COSSA has published an analysis of the bill, as well as a statement opposing it. Click here to read all of our COMPETES coverage.

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Posted in Issue 9 (May 19), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

House FY 2016 CJS Bill: Preliminary Analysis

On May 13, a draft of the fiscal year (FY) 2016 House Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Bill was publicly released in anticipation of the CJS Subcommittee markup scheduled for Thursday, May 14.  This is the bill that provides annual appropriations to the National Science Foundation (NSF), Census Bureau and other statistical agencies, and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). [It should not be confused with the NSF reauthorization (COMPETES) bill that we have also been reporting on in recent weeks.]

Outlined below are preliminary details on the contents of the draft bill as it pertains to federal agencies important to the social and behavioral science research community. We will know more, such as whether there are any provisions specifically targeting social science, once the Committee Report is released, likely next week.


National Science Foundation
  • Total NSF funding = $7.39 billion, 0.68% or $50 million over FY 2015 funding, 4.3% below the President’s request
  • The $50 million increase would go to the Research & Related Activities account, which is where NSF’s science directorates are funded.
  • The Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate would be flat funded at $866 million.
  • Most importantly, the House bill would not appropriate specific funding levels for each research directorate, which is a proposal within the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806) that COSSA and the broad scientific community strongly opposes.  
cjs-fy16-nsf Census Bureau
  • Total Census Bureau Funding = $1.113 billion, 2.3% or $25 million above FY 2015 but 25.8% below the President’s request.
  • Current Surveys and Programs = $265 million, 1.4% below FY 2015 and 4.6% below the President’s request
  • Periodic Censuses and Programs = $848 million, 3.5% above FY 2015 but 30.6% below the President’s request.
  • The bill language does not specify the funding level for the American Community Survey (ACS); Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) has been a vocal critic of the ACS in recent months. We could see ACS-specific language in the Committee Report when it is released.
cjs-fy16-censusDepartment of Justice

Funding levels are not yet known for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) or the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

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Posted in Issue 9 (May 19), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Anti-Science COMPETES Bill Heads to House Floor

On April 23, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee passed along party lines (19 Republicans to 16 Democrats) the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806).  According to Committee Chairman and sponsor of the legislation Lamar Smith (R-TX), H.R. 1806 is a “pro-science and fiscally responsible bill.”  It prioritizes basic research at the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), while keeping funding levels within Congressionally-set discretionary spending limits.  For NSF, the bill would increase funding for the Biological Sciences (BIO), Engineering (ENG), Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), and Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorates at the expense of other NSF accounts, including Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) and Geosciences (GEO).  See COSSA’s analysis of H.R. 1806 for more information.

COSSA strongly opposes H.R. 1806 and issued a statement expressing our concerns.

Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) had harsh words for the bill during the more than five hour-long markup, noting that H.R. 1806 is the “combination of two bad bills” from last year, becoming a “doubly bad bill.”  Further, she noted that the original America COMPETES Act enacted in 2007 and its reauthorization in 2010 were “landmark” pieces of legislation, vetted by dozens of scientific stakeholders through a transparent process.  In contrast, H.R. 1806 was developed by Committee Republicans behind closed doors without federal agency or stakeholder input.  In addition, while the previous two COMPETES bills aimed to ensure America’s preeminence in science and engineering, Johnson continued, the bill before the Committee “questions the motives of NSF and the integrity of scientists.”  She expressed her embarrassment over the Committee’s consideration of the bill, noting that the nation would be better off with no bill than with H.R. 1806.

Johnson entered into the Committee record 30 letters (including COSSA’s) raising opposition or serious concerns with the legislation.  In contrast, she noted that the previous COMPETES bills received hundreds of endorsements.

Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) called the targeting of SBE and GEO within H.R. 1806 a “partisan distraction” from what could otherwise be an important message on science, adding that the cuts to social science would be detrimental.  He expressed his commitment to finding a bipartisan compromise, but added that he is unsure how to get there with this bill.

The Committee considered more than 30 amendments during the markup, most from the Committee’s Democratic members.  About half of the amendments addressed concerns within the NSF title of the bill, including an amendment by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) that would have struck the specific authorizations for NSF’s individual directorates, and amendments that would delete language tying NSF research to issues of “national interest” and misrepresentation of research results.  These amendments were defeated along party lines.

Of particular note was an amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Ranking Member Johnson, which took the form of a Democratic alternative bill to H.R. 1806 that was introduced on April 21, also called the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1898).  Every Democratic member of Science Committee signed on to H.R. 1898 as original cosponsors.

Like the Republican bill that passed through the Committee today, the Johnson bill would authorize research efforts at NSF, DOE’s Office of Science, and NIST.  However, that is where the similarities end.

The Johnson bill would authorize NSF for fiscal years (FY) 2016 through 2020; the Smith bill only provides authorizations for FY 2016-2017, requiring that the Committee turn back to NSF reauthorization in a year or so.  In addition, the Democrats’ bill sets much more ambitious and sustained funding levels for the agency, with nearly 5 percent growth each year:

COMPETES 2015 markup

Further, the Johnson bill does not provide specific authorizations for NSF’s research directorates.  Instead, it keeps with the current practice of providing an authorization for Research and Related Activities, Education and Human Resources, and other high-level accounts, and maintains NSF’s flexibility for determining how best to prioritize research funding.

The Johnson amendment in the nature of a substitute was defeated along party lines.  Further the Science Committee is not expected to take up the Johnson COMPETES bill as a standalone measure.

H.R. 1806 now heads to the House floor for a vote.  The bill’s predecessor, known as the FIRST Act in 2014, never received a floor vote. However, reports indicate that Chairman Smith is hoping to bring the bill to the floor in the near future, potentially as soon as next week.

Meanwhile, the Senate has not yet introduced COMPETES reauthorization legislation this year.  However, Smith and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) issued a joint statement earlier today expressing their intent to work together on a COMPETES bill this year.

COSSA members and others can continue to weigh in on H.R. 1806 by writing to your Congressperson, especially as we head toward a potential floor vote in May.

Follow the action: #NOtoHR1806#Stand4Science@COSSADC


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Posted in Issue 8 (May 5), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

House COMPETES Bill Targets Social Science

On April 15, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith introduced the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806). This is legislation to reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill is scheduled for a markup by the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on Wednesday, April 22.

While there are some noticeable changes from the bill that the scientific community rallied against last year (known as the FIRST Act), the new bill, authored by Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, continues to challenge the value of social and behavioral science research and restricts NSF’s ability to drive its own research agenda.  COSSA strongly opposes this legislation and released a statement on April 17 detailing its objections.

COSSA’s full analysis of the bill can be found here.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 21), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

COSSA Remembers Janet Norwood

norwoodThe social science and statistical communities lost a friend on March 27, Janet L. Norwood. Norwood was a former Commissioner of Labor Statistics (1979-1991), having served Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan during her 13 year tenure. As one of few women serving in the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the time and the first to lead the agency, Norwood was an inspiration and mentor to many professional women in Washington. She served as COSSA President from 2001-2002.

In addition to her service to COSSA, Norwood also held advisory and leadership positions with the American Statistical Association, NORC at the University of Chicago, and the Committee on National Statistics at the National Academies, among many others.

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Posted in Issue 6 (April 7), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Summaries Available from COSSA Annual Meeting

Thank you to all who attended the 2015 COSSA Annual Meeting in Washington, DC on March 9-10.  Summaries and presentations from several of the sessions are available on the Annual Meeting webpage.  Speakers included France Cordova, Director of the National Science Foundation, William Riley, Acting Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, among others.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 24), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

COSSA Annual Meeting and Advocacy Day Attracts Over 100

CSFlynn_20150309_D700_4770_HRMore than 100 social and behavioral scientists from across the country attended the 2015 COSSA Annual Meeting and related events on March 9-10. This week’s meeting featured a new format for the annual event, which included moving of the meeting from the fall when it had historically been held, to the spring in order to align with Congressional calendar. As part of the meeting on March 10, more than 60 COSSA members descended on Capitol Hill for the first-ever Social and Behavioral Science Advocacy Day. Advocates met with 84 different offices in the House and Senate to discuss the value of social science research and the critical role the federal government plays in supporting this research. Check out the next issue of the COSSA Washington Update for summaries of the meeting’s sessions.

A big thanks our Annual Meeting sponsors: American Educational Research Association, American Evaluation Association, American Sociological Association, Midwest Political Science Association, Princeton University, SAGE, and West Virginia University.

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Posted in Issue 4 (March 13), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

COSSA Annual Meeting & Advocacy Day, March 9-10 – Still Time to Register!

The 2015 COSSA Annual Meeting and Social and Behavioral Science Advocacy Day is fast approaching. Join us on March 9-10, 2015 in Washington, DC for a day of discussion on federal issues impacting social and behavioral science research. The preliminary program is available here. Visit the COSSA Annual Meeting page for full details.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 24), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

COSSA’s Analysis for the President’s FY 2016 Budget Request

budget analysis coverPresident Obama released his fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request to Congress on February 2, officially kicking off the FY 2016 appropriations process. COSSA has released its analysis of the President’s budget request. The 62-page report provides funding details for all federal departments, agencies, and programs important to social and behavioral science research. It outlines the President’s funding proposals as they compare to current (FY 2015) levels. In addition, the document serves as a helpful catalog of social science programs and initiatives across the federal government.


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Posted in Issue 3 (February 24), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

COSSA Annual Meeting & Advocacy Day, March 9-10 – Register Today!

Registration remains open for the 2015 COSSA Annual Meeting and Social and Behavioral Science Advocacy Day scheduled for March 9-10, 2015 in Washington, DC. The meeting is open to the public; however, the advocacy day meetings are reserved for representatives of COSSA member organizations and institutions.

The COSSA Annual Meeting brings together representatives from throughout the social and behavioral science community for a day of discussion on federal issues impacting social and behavioral science research. It provides an opportunity for COSSA members and others to engage directly with leaders of federal science agencies, Congressional staff, and colleagues from other associations and institutions. (more…)

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 27), Update, Volume 34 (2015)