Blog Archives

Congress is Home for Summer Break. Tell them #WhySocialScience

The House left for August recess over a week ago and the Senate followed suit last week, leaving crickets in DC for the next few weeks. As previously reported, progress on the fiscal year (FY) 2016 appropriations bill all but stalled out as Congress prepared to leave for its month-long summer break. The big question heading into the fall will be whether the GOP leadership in Congress and the Obama White House will be able to come to terms on an endgame for the annual funding bills before the government is forced to shut down for the second time in three years on October 1. Threatening progress is the emergence of concerns surrounding Planned Parenthood funding and the flying of the Confederate flag on federal land. Policy riders such as these could further paralyze the process in the waning days of the current fiscal year, leaving the fate of FY 2016 (which begins October 1) unknown at best.

Republican leaders in Congress have promised in recent days that they will not bend to pressure from some in their caucus to allow the government to shut down over the policy issues mentioned above. Specifically, conservatives in Congress are demanding that must-pass funding legislation, due October 1, include language defunding Planned Parenthood, which would all but guarantee a government shutdown.

The August recess is the perfect time for constituents to engage with their elected officials in their home districts about the issues important to your local community, whether by attending town hall meetings or scheduling your own appointments to speak one-on-one. COSSA has prepared a toolkit to assist social and behavioral scientists in outreach to Congress during these last few weeks of summer. Don’t let these macro political issues distract policy makers from issues important to our science. Tell them #WhySocialScience is important to your state and community!

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Posted in Issue 15 (August 11), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Why Social Science? Share Your Stories!

Why Social ScienceCOSSA has launched a new campaign that seeks to collect stories of social science success from social and behavioral scientists across all disciplines. Is your research pushing the frontiers of science or advancing your field? Has your research contributed to an important finding or breakthrough? Are there interesting applications or potential applications to your work? If so, we want to hear it!

You may submit your stories using COSSA’s Why Social Science? webpage. Stories will be shared through social media (#WhySocialScience) and other COSSA outreach efforts over the next several months.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 28), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

COSSA Releases Statement on House & Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Bills

On July 2, COSSA released a statement detailing its objections to the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services , Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) spending bills passed by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees in June. Although both bills would provide significant increases to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as the statement notes

“Unfortunately, the much needed increases in NIH funding in both bills come at the expense of federal agencies whose work plays a vital and collaborative role in the U.S. scientific enterprise, particularly as it relates to our nation’s health. As such, COSSA cannot support either appropriations bill.

COSSA is particularly concerned by the proposal to eliminate the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in the House bill, both bills’ inadequate funding of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Institute of Education Science (IES), and restrictions placed on research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

The statement is available in full here.

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Posted in Issue 13 (July 14), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

House and Senate Appropriations Committees Approve FY 2016 Labor-HHS Bills

The Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate advanced their respective fiscal year (FY) 2016 bills for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS). The House passed its version on June 24 (see COSSA’s preliminary analysis of the bill), and the Senate on June 25. Both bills would provide sizable increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with a larger increase coming from the Senate’s bill. The House bill proposes to completely eliminate the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) but maintains strong funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the Senate keeps AHRQ but would inflict significant cuts to both agencies.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of both bills and more details on the funding prospects for these and other agencies important to social and behavioral science.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 30), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

HOT TOPIC: Scientific Organizations Reflect on Building “Trust in Science”

By Julia Milton, COSSA

The scientific community has been grappling with topics related to science communication and public trust in science lately. This spring, several major scientific organizations met to focus on these issues. To name a few, the National Academy of Science’s 2015 Henry and Bryna David Lecture was held on “Communicating the Value and Values of Science;” the AAAS’ annual Forum on Science and Technology Policy held not one, but two break-out sessions on “Public Opinion and Policy Making,” as well as an evening plenary lecture entitled “Science to Action: Thoughts on Convincing a Skeptical Public;” and the Academies’ Roundtable on Public Interfaces of the Life Sciences held a workshop, “Does the Public Trust Science? Trust and Confidence at the Intersections of the Life Sciences and Society.”

According to Pew Research Associate Director Cary Funk, the public generally has confidence in both the institution of science and scientists as a profession. However, when it comes to specific science-related issues like evolution, attitudes become more varied and may be correlated with factors like political ideology, education, and religiosity, depending on the topic. There is certainly a sense that “science” has been on the defensive lately as public policy debates on climate change, childhood vaccinations, and genetically modified foods generate controversy and incidents like the high-profile retraction of a study on attitudes toward same-sex marriage grab headlines. (more…)

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Posted in Issue 11 (June 16), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

House Passes FY16 NSF, Census, Justice Spending Bill

After two days of debate and consideration of dozens of amendments, the House passed the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill this evening on June 4 by a vote of 242 to 183. Twelve Democrats voted in favor of the bill with 10 Republicans voting against.

As previously reported, this annual spending bill–which provides funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Justice (DOJ) research programs, and the Census Bureau and other federal statistical agencies–includes very troubling provisions impacting social and behavioral science research (see COSSA’s analysis for full details).

There were no amendments offered, positive or negative, to the NSF section of the bill, leaving the section unchanged from the version that was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on May 20.

However, several amendments passed impacting the budget of the Census Bureau, including:

  • $100 million from Periodic Censuses and Programs to increase funding for justice assistance grants (Rep. David Reichert, R-WA)
  • $17.3 million from Periodic Censuses and Programs for sex trafficking victims services in DOJ (Rep. Ted Poe, R-TX)
  • $4 million from Current Surveys and Programs to increase DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs (Rep. Richard Nugent, R-FL)

In addition, Rep. Poe continued his assault on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) by offering an amendment to make the ACS voluntary; the amendment passed by voice vote, but not before CJS Subcommittee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA) keenly articulated the importance of a mandatory survey.

While no amendments were offered impacting NSF, several Members of Congress took to the House floor to object to problematic report language in the bill that would direct 70 percent of NSF research funding to engineering and physical, biological and computer science, thereby undercutting funding to the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate (as well as the Geosciences directorate) (video can be viewed here). Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) (video at 05:17:06) called these cuts to SBE “misguided” and highlighted several examples of social science research that has led to major breakthroughs impacting the health and prosperity of the nation. In addition, Rep. David Price (D-NC) (video at 10:35:39) asked CJS Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) for a commitment to work together to fix this language and preserve NSF’s discretion to decide what grants to fund, to which Culberson expressed his intent to work with the Congressman. House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) (video at 04:46:20) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) (video at 05:13:13), Ranking Member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, also expressed their objection to the NSF language and cuts to Census.

Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) (video at 05:21:35) took to the floor to defend the NSF language, acknowledging that he worked directly with CJS Subcommittee staff to incorporate it into the committee report. He reiterated his concerns about NSF’s responsibility to be accountable to taxpayers and fund grants that are in the “national interest.”

The next step in the FY 2016 funding of these agencies is Senate consideration of its version of the CJS appropriations bill, which could occur as early as next week with a possible markup in the Senate CJS Subcommittee.

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Posted in Issue 11 (June 16), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

House Advances Bills to Cut Social Science Funding

As we have been reporting over the last several weeks, the U.S. House of Representatives has been busy considering legislation to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, landmark legislation first enacted in 2007 to reignite U.S. investment in scientific research.  It serves as authorizing legislation for the National Science Foundation (NSF), among other agencies.  The House version of COMPETES reauthorization is a major departure from earlier versions, garnering deep opposition from the broader scientific community, including from COSSA. Among the many problematic provisions in the bill is language to cut NSF’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate by half.  Despite widespread opposition, the House passed the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806) on May 20 by a narrow margin (217-205).  The COMPETES bill now heads to the Senate, where we don’t expect to see any action until later in the summer or fall. (more…)

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Posted in Issue 10 (June 2), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

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)