Blog Archives

COSSA, SAGE Host Why Social Science? Congressional Briefing

COSSA and SAGE Publishing hosted a Congressional briefing on Wednesday, October 4 on Social Science Solutions for Health, Public Safety, Computing, and Other National Priorities. The event featured authors of past Why Social Science? blog posts, including Representative Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Peter Harsha of the Computing Research Association, Nancy La Vigne of The Urban Institute, and William Riley of the National Institutes of Health. Panelists discussed the importance of social science applications to preventing cyberattacks, how social science can help identify the causes of health disparities, and how behavioral reinforcement or “nudges” can be incorporated into federal policy. A complete recording of the event is available on COSSA’s website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Issue 19 (October 3), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

HOT TOPIC: New NIH “Clinical Trials” Definition to Impact Basic Social and Behavioral Science Research

Hot Topic LogoThe National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been working for the last few years to enhance its stewardship of and increase transparency over the clinical trials it funds. The agency, which is the largest funder of clinical trials in the U.S., issued a Notice of Revised NIH Definition of “Clinical Trial” (NOT-OD-15-015) in late 2014 laying out a new, expanded definition to govern which research projects are to be categorized as a “clinical trial” from here on out.

While this change has been in process for the last few years, it wasn’t until more recently that the biomedical and behavioral research community started to take notice of the potentially significant impacts this new definition could have on a variety of basic research activities funded by the NIH, which will now be considered clinical trials. Although it was developed with the traditional NIH biomedical research clinical trial in mind and in response to concerns about study results going unreported, the social and behavioral sciences are impacted as well.

The 2016 notice states that “the revision is designed to make the distinction between clinical trials and clinical research studies clearer and to enhance the precision of the information NIH collects, tracks, and reports on clinical trials.” While it further states that the intention is not to “expand the scope of the category of clinical trials,” the resulting policy does just that.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the changes.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Issue 19 (October 3), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

House Passes Omnibus Spending Bill Along with Problematic NSF Amendment

After two weeks of debate and votes on hundreds of amendments, the House of Representatives has passed an omnibus spending bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, consisting of all twelve spending bills. The omnibus includes the same funding levels for social science research as the Commerce-Justice-Science and Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bills that were passed by the House Appropriations Committee. While the proposed funding levels were moderately good for social and behavioral science research, the House approved an amendment proposed by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chair of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, that could be detrimental to the social sciences. The amendment would require that about $30 million (or 0.5 percent) of the Research and Related Activities account at the National Science Foundation (NSF) be used only to support basic research in the biological and physical sciences. NSF currently prioritizes research investments based on the advice of its own experts and scholars and if this amendment became law, it could result in political influence into the NSF research process.

Two other amendments that targeted the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the Census Bureau, proposed by Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) and Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) respectively, were not taken up for consideration on the floor and therefore did not pass.

The spending package has little chance of passing the Senate, but President Trump has already signed a short-term budget measure to keep the government open at current funding levels through December 8, giving Congress more time to come up with a deal for the rest of FY 2018. Read COSSA’s full coverage of the FY 2018 spending debate here.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Issue 18 (September 19), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

White House Outlines FY 2019 R&D Budget Priorities, Emphasizes Role of Industry

On August 17, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney, with Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant Secretary to the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issued a joint memorandum to federal agency and department heads on “FY 2019 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities.” The R&D memo, along with an earlier memo released in July that outlines more general budget reforms, keeps with the practices of past administrations to lay out key White House priorities as agencies begin working on their budget submissions for the next fiscal year. Of course, the priorities within the memos can differ dramatically depending on the Administration, which is the case with this year’s guidance.

The FY 2019 R&D memo acknowledges the important role of science and technology to America’s global leadership, and particularly to issues of “national security, economic growth, and job creation.” However, there is some subtle, yet important language signaling possible shifts in this Administration’s priorities for science funding. For example, the memo states, “In spurring future advances, Federal funding of research and development programs and research infrastructure can play a crucial supporting role [emphasis added].” While it directs federal agencies to “continue, and expand where necessary, efforts to focus on basic research,” it directs agencies to reduce funding overlaps with private industry in later-stage research. It further states that “Working in tandem, the Government and the private sector can promote the nation’s economic growth through innovation, and create new products and services for the American people.”

The memo also outlines a number of priorities related to funding practices and accountability, including ensuring that “proposed programs are based on sound science, do not duplicate existing R&D efforts, and have the potential to contribute to the public good.” It further states that federal agencies should identify existing programs “that could progress more efficiently through private sector R&D, and consider their modification or elimination where Federal involvement is no longer needed or appropriate.”

Other key science priorities for the Trump Administration in FY 2019 include research “that can support the military of the future,” the development of “technologies necessary to prevent terrorist attacks, mitigate the effects of both natural and adversarial threats and hazards, and secure American borders,” and development of a domestic energy portfolio that includes “fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy sources.” As for biomedical (NIH) research, the memo calls for priority to be placed on programs “that encourage innovation to prevent, treat, and defeat diseases, and maintain America’s standing as a world leader in medicine.” Further, agencies should prioritize research addressing aging populations, drug addiction, and other public health challenges.

Additional details can be found in the memorandum.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Issue 17 (September 5), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Senate CJS Bill Approved by Committee; Congress Leaves for Recess

On July 27, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year (FY) 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Bill; the bill was marked up in subcommittee on July 25. In addition, the House Appropriations Committee advanced its version of the CJS bill on July 13 (check out COSSA’s coverage of this and other FY 2018 appropriations bills). The CJS bill serves as the vehicle for annual appropriations for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and many other federal departments and agencies. The next step for the bill is consideration by the full Senate. However, now that Congress has left town for the August recess, we will not see floor action until after Labor Day at the earliest.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s proposals for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census Bureau, and Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Issue 16 (August 8), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Congress Moves FY 2018 Spending Bills Ahead of August Recess

The House and Senate have worked in recent weeks to advance as many of the fiscal year (FY) 2018 annual appropriations bills as possible before heading out of town for the typical month-long August recess. Details have been emerging on lawmakers’ funding plans for agencies and programs important to the COSSA community.

The House Appropriations Committee approved two bills this month that provide the bulk of funding support for the social sciences. The Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill, which funds the National Science Foundation, Department of Justice, and Census Bureau, was approved on July 13. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which funds the National Institutes of Health and other HHS agencies, Department of Education, and Bureau of Labor Statistics, was approved on July 19. The next step for both bills is consideration by the full House; however, that is not likely to happen until after the August recess when Congress returns following Labor Day. Instead, the House will work this week toward passing a so-called “security mini-bus” that will include the Defense, Energy-Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-VA appropriations bills; the package is likely to also contain $1.6 billion for the construction of President Trump’s southern border wall, which as one could expect leaves the fate of the FY 2018 appropriations process on touchy ground.

Over on the Senate side, the Appropriations Subcommittees are just starting their work on their versions of the FY 2018 spending bills. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies appropriations bill on July 20; the House Appropriations Committee advanced its bill on July 12. In addition, the Senate CJS bill will be marked up in subcommittee on July 25 and by the full Appropriations Committee on July 27. But even if the Senate were able to complete work on the CJS bill before leaving for recess (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to delay the Senate’s recess until mid-August to allow time to finish work on the Obamacare repeal), the differences in top-line funding between the House and Senate leave final negotiations on all of the appropriations bills still a tall order.

Adding in plans by House and Senate leaders to strike a larger budget deal to lift the annual spending caps (which would require the appropriations bills to be rewritten, including those already approved by committee) and the need to raise the federal debt ceiling by early October, policy makers will return to Washington this fall with a lot on their plate before the current fiscal year expires on September 30.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Issue 15 (July 25), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Why Social Science? Highlights the National Academies’ SBE Report

why-social-scienceThis week’s Why Social Science? post highlights the recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, The Value of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences to National Priorities. Produced at the request of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the report assesses the contributions of the social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences to issues of national importance.
Read it here and subscribe.

Back to this issue’s table of contents. 

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Issue 14 (July 11), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

FY 2018 Funding Bills Off to a Slow Start

The House and Senate are heading down different paths as they attempt to kick-start the fiscal year (FY) 2018 appropriations process before the new fiscal year begins on October 1. As previously reported, the annual appropriations process is significantly delayed this year with the President’s budget request having been transmitted to Congress just last month (it is usually due in early February).

Appropriations subcommittees in both chambers have begun holding their annual hearings to discuss the budget requests for agencies under their purview (see related article on the NIH budget hearing). Some subcommittees have begun writing their appropriations bills, even without knowing what their spending allocation—the topline budget they are allotted for their bill—is for next year. Some have chosen to write their bills using current FY 2017 funding levels, while others are assuming small increases.

Given that there are less than 40 working days left before the next fiscal year begins, House leaders have expressed an interest in foregoing regular order altogether and instead crafting a catch-all omnibus appropriation bill. To accomplish this, however, subcommittees would need to start marking up and passing their bills out of committee over the next several weeks so they can be compiled into a 12-bill package before September 30.

The Senate, on the other hand, is taking a more deliberate approach and would prefer to advance each of the appropriations bills individually through the committee process before September so that they can be in a good negotiating position with the House when it comes time to finish up the bills later this fall.

Either way, we may start to see details of the appropriations bills of interest to the research community emerge following the July 4 recess.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Issue 13 (June 27), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

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.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , , ,
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.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

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

Subscribe

Click here to subscribe to the COSSA Washington Update, our biweekly newsletter.

Archive

Looking for something from a previous issue of the COSSA Washington Update? Try our archive.

Issues

Browse by Month