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National Academies Highlights the Value of Social Science

At the request of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened an expert committee, chaired by Alan Leshner, CEO Emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to study the contributions of the social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences to the national interest. The committee’s report, The Value of the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences to National Priorities, published last week, is a ringing endorsement of the importance of these fields to addressing “nearly every major challenge the United States faces.” The report draws three conclusions: (1) SBE sciences “produce a better understanding of the human aspects of the natural world, contributing knowledge, methods, and tools that further the mission of the National Science Foundation;” (2) SBE sciences provide understanding, tools, and methods that help other agencies achieve their missions; (3) the SBE sciences have made contributions that “have been applicable to businesses and industry and that have enhanced the U.S. economy.” To support its findings, the report provides supporting examples detailing the contributions of SBE research to health, prosperity and welfare, national defense, progress in science, missions of other agencies, and industry and business.

The committee also issued four recommendations for NSF and the broader SBE community: (1) NSF should undertake a systematic and transparent strategic planning process related to SBE sciences; (2) NSF should “continue to support the development of tools, methods, and research teams” to advance SBE sciences, facilitate their interactions with other fields, and help NSF and other organizations more effectively address national needs; (3) NSF should support training “consistent with the ways science is evolving across all scientific fields;” and (4) NSF should work to better communicate the results and value of the SBE research it supports and to encourage the broader scientific community to increase its own efforts to better communicate the value of SBE research.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 13), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

COSSA Releases Analysis of the Trump Administration’s FY 2018 Budget Request

The Trump Administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request on May 23. The budget seeks dramatic reductions totaling $3.6 trillion across nearly every department of the federal government, including most science and research agencies. COSSA has prepared an in-depth analysis of the FY 2018 budget request, which includes details on the President’s proposals for the dozens of departments, agencies, and programs of interest to social and behavioral science researchers.

The release of the President’s budget request marks the official start of the FY 2018 appropriations process, though some Congressional committees have already begun holding their oversight hearings even without a budget in front of them. It is important to remember that the President’s budget is just one step in the annual appropriations process. Congress still holds the power of the purse. As always, COSSA will report on ongoing developments in the FY 2018 appropriations process in the COSSA Washington Update.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 30), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Census Bureau Director Resigns, Complicating Outlook for 2020 Decennial

On May 9, John Thompson announced his plans to step down as Director of the Census Bureau effective June 30. Thompson’s resignation comes at a critical time for the Bureau as it ramps up its activities ahead of the 2020 Census and continues to face periodic threats to the American Community Survey. So far, no details have emerged about a potential replacement. The Deputy Director position at the Bureau has been vacant since Nancy Potok left to become Chief Statistician of the United States in January.

No reason was given for Thompson’s departure in the middle of a year-long extension to his term (which had expired at the end of 2016).The week before this announcement, Thompson appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies for an oversight hearing on the 2020 Census. Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) had several sharp questions for the Director on projected cost overruns on IT systems for the decennial census, the government’s largest non-military undertaking. Culberson also expressed concern about the American Community Survey, calling it “intrusive.”

The next director will have to contend with a funding climate in which investment in the Bureau, which typically increases significantly in the years leading up to a decennial census, has fallen well below similar points in the cycle, with a fairly small increase passed for fiscal year (FY) 2017 and nearly flat funding proposed by the Administration for FY 2018. Without adequate investment, the task of conducting a fair and accurate 2020 Census will become increasingly challenging—and more expensive down the line.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 16), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Congress Reaches Agreement on FY 2017 Funding

On May 1, Congress announced that a bipartisan deal had been brokered to fund the federal government through the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2017. The omnibus appropriations bill includes 11 individual appropriations bills and keeps the government operating through September 30, 2017.

Should the bill pass this week, the final, much-delayed result for FY 2017 will be mostly positive for social and behavioral science research. Compared to where we have been in recent years and with all of the unknowns surrounding the Trump Administration’s position on science funding, this outcome is about the best we could have hoped for.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the FY 2017 omnibus appropriations bill.

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Posted in Issue 9 (May 2), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Why Social Science Is Marching for Science

why-social-science  MFS_logo

This week’s Why Social Science? takes a break from our regular guest posts to talk about the upcoming March for Science, and how and why social and behavioral scientists can get involved. Read it here and subscribe.

COSSA is an official partner of the March for Science. We are collecting information for social and behavioral scientists participating in the March for Science, both on the COSSA March for Science website and through a weekly newsletter that compiles the latest information and updates on March for Science activity (anyone can sign up to receive it here).

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 18), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Recap of the 2017 COSSA Science Policy Conference

COSSA held its 2017 Science Policy Conference and Social Science Advocacy Day on March 29-30 in Washington, DC. Sessions featured important discussions on social science within the context of the Trump Administration and the new Congress.

The keynote address was delivered by University of California, Berkeley sociologist Arlie R. Hochschild, whose book Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award. The program also included an expert panel addressing the political and policy challenges of the day and strategies for addressing them, and discussions on the benefits of public engagement by social scientists, mobilizing social science students, engaging with national media outlets, the role of social scientists in government service, and ways to meaningfully advocate from home. Click here for COSSA’s summary of the Conference sessions.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 4), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Trump Administration Releases Preliminary Details on FY 2018 Budget

On March 16, the Trump Administration released preliminary, high-level details of its fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request, referred to as a “skinny budget.” Full budget details are expected sometime in May.

There are few surprises in the President’s “safety and security” budget blueprint. Major reductions are proposed for nondefense discretionary programs (including research accounts) in order to finance $54 billion in increases for the Department of Defense. Of course, to achieve such a reallocation, Congress would need to act to adjust the budget caps that are currently governing defense and nondefense discretionary spending; the President cannot unilaterally shift funds from nondefense accounts to defense under current law.

For now, the budget only includes proposals for Cabinet-level departments and a handful of other “major” agencies. For example, it includes preliminary details for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (which would take a $6 billion hit) but not for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Instead, NSF appears to be lumped in with “Other Agencies,” which collectively would receive a 10 percent cut in FY 2018 (see the chart below). This DOES NOT necessarily mean that NSF is slated for a 10 percent cut; we will have to wait to see the details in May.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the FY 2018 proposal as known so far.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 21), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

COSSA Endorses March for Science

COSSA has announced that it that it will be partnering with the March for Science, joining more than 25 scientific societies and professional associations who have officially endorsed the March. We are excited to participate in the event in solidarity with other scientists and science enthusiasts as we showcase the important contributions that science, especially the social and behavioral sciences, make to our country and global community. The Washington, DC March is scheduled for April 22 and more than 300 satellite marches are planned in cities around the world.

Like science more generally, the March for Science is nonpartisan. It is not intended as a protest or demonstration against any one party or politician’s position. Instead, the event will be a celebration of science, promoting positive messages about the ways scientific research serves humankind. Those interested in following COSSA’s activities related to the March can sign up to receive periodic email updates.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 7), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

COSSA Conference Agenda Released; Hotel Block Rate Expires Feb. 28

The preliminary agenda for the 2017 COSSA Science Policy Conference & Social Science Advocacy Day on March 29-30 is now available. Featured speakers include University of California, Berkeley sociologist Arlie R. Hochschild and John Sides of the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog. Other sessions will highlight topics including Mobilizing Students as Ambassadors for Social Science, Promoting Your Expertise with National Media Outlets, Social Science in Government Service, and Advocating from Home. Register today! Don’t forget: participants from COSSA member organizations and universities are eligible to receive a discount on registration. Email jmilton@cossa.org for details.

For those planning to travel to the Conference from out of town, the conference hotel block rate expires on February 28. Book your room at the Hilton Garden Inn Washington DC/U.S. Capitol before prices go up next week! Use this link when booking to get the block rate or book over the phone and use the SRP code SCI.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 21), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

2017 COSSA Science Policy Conference Keynote Announced

University of California, Berkeley sociologist Arlie R. Hochschild will deliver the keynote address at the 2017 COSSA Science Policy Conference and Social Science Advocacy Day. Hochschild’s most recent book Strangers in their own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award. According to the publisher’s website, the book “goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that many on the political right have been duped into voting against their interests. In the right-wing world she explores, Hochschild discovers powerful forces—fear of cultural eclipse, economic decline, perceived government betrayal—which override self-interest, as progressives see it, and help explain the emotional appeal of a candidate like Donald Trump.”

COSSA has also announced that the 2017 recipients of the COSSA Distinguished Service Award will be Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), in recognition of their work on last year’s bipartisan science and innovation legislation. COSSA will present Senators Gardner and Peters with the award at a Congressional reception as part of the conference on March 29. Other confirmed speakers include John Sides of the Washington Post’s popular Monkey Cage blog, who will speak about how to bring social science to the masses. Planned sessions also include panels on strategies for enhancing student participation in the social sciences on campus and best practices for social and behavioral scientists engaging with the media, among other topics.

Register today! Remember, participants affiliated with COSSA member organizations are eligible for discounted registration. Email jmilton@cossa.org for details.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 7), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

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