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Congress Returns for Lame Duck Session, Begins Organizing

Congress returns to Washington this week for the first time since last week’s historic elections. Lawmakers are returning to a new reality that many did not see coming, with the election of Donald Trump as the next President and the Republicans maintaining a stronghold in both chambers of Congress.

Following the elections, Republicans maintain a narrowed majority in the House and Senate. The Senate margins sit at 51 Republicans to 48 Democrats, with a run-off race in Louisiana scheduled for December. In addition, and as expected, Republicans held onto control of the House, with 239 Republicans to 193 Democrats, though Democrats narrowed the margin by picking up 5 seats so far, with some still too close to call. Notable losses include Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who lost his seat to Democrat Tammy Duckworth; Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; and House appropriators Mike Honda (D-CA) and David Jolly (R-FL).

Three newly elected members of the House will be sworn in this week, rather than in January with the rest of their freshman class, because their seats have previously been vacated. This includes Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), who will fill the late Mark Takai’s seat, James Comer (R-KY), who will fill fellow Republican Ed Whitfield’s seat following his resignation in September, and Dwight Evans (D-PA), who will fill Chaka Fattah’s (D-PA) seat following his June resignation.

It will be some time before committee assignments for the 115th Congress will be made. Below is an early look at the committees of interest to the COSSA community and number of seats currently vacated following the elections.

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At the top of the agenda for the next few weeks is what to do about the FY 2017 spending bills, which remain undone. The current continuing resolution (CR) expires on December 9. Unsurprisingly, lawmakers are split on the endgame strategy. Some Republicans are pushing to complete the appropriations bills before the end of the calendar year, thereby allowing the next Congress to start fresh, while others would like to punt them to 2017 so as to dodge any final negotiations with President Obama. Either way, Congress must take some form of action by December 9 to avoid a government shutdown.

Another task for the lame duck session is getting organized for next year. House and Senate Republicans and Democrats are holding leadership elections this week. While we expect Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to keep the Speaker’s gavel and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to remain as Minority Leader in the House, and Mitch McConnell to stay on as Majority Leader in the Senate, there could be some surprises as lawmakers battle for other positions.

Stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage of the 2016 elections for the latest developments and analysis of what this all means for the social science research community.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 15), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

2016 Presidential Candidates’ Science Policy Platforms

Over the last year and a half, presidential candidates have provided hints as to what their science policy priorities would be if they were to win.

Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released details of her “Initiative on Technology and Innovation”, which includes commitments to grow the budget of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the research budgets at the Department of Energy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). While Secretary Clinton’s published positions related to science primarily focus on computer science and technology, in response to a questionnaire from the Scientific American, Secretary Clinton expanded her position on basic research, saying “I believe it is essential that we strengthen our research capacity, by funding talented young investigators, looking for ways to prioritize ‘high-risk, high-reward’ projects that have the potential to transform entire fields.”

Businessman and Republican nominee Donald Trump has not published any specific policy recommendations related to science, but included in his answer to the Scientific American questionnaire that scientific advances, including a viable space program, require long-term investment and stakeholder input. Other public statements, including about the National Institutes Health, have been less flattering.

Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson also provided responses to the Scientific American. Stein believes that most government-supported scientific efforts should be related to combating climate change. Alternatively, Johnson believes that the government should focus on funding basic research rather than advanced or applied research.

More analysis can be found in the Scientific American and Science Magazine.

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Posted in Issue 21 (November 1), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Emilio Moran Named to National Science Board

The White House has announced the latest appointments to the National Science Board (NSB). Included in the 2016 class is Dr. Emilio Moran of Michigan State University. Dr. Moran is a respected researcher in the natural and social sciences, looking to better understand the interplay of human and environment interactions.

The National Science Board is the policy-making body of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and also serves as an independent advisor to the President and Congress on federal science policy. Members of the 25-person Board are appointed by the President of the United States for six year terms. Appointment to the Board is a top honor within the scientific community. Dr. Moran’s appointment brings the number of social scientists on the Board to four. He will be sworn in at the next meeting in November.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 18), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

NSF SBE Directorate Releases Dear Colleague Letter on Robust and Reliable Research, Invites Proposal Submissions

On September 20, Dr. Fay Lomax Cook, Assistant Director for the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) at the National Science Foundation (NSF), released a Dear Colleague Letter on “Robust and Reliable Research in the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences”. The letter announces the SBE Directorate’s interest in stimulating research to enhance the reliability and robustness of research in these areas of science. To accomplish this goal, the SBE Directorate has invited proposals on a variety of topics to its standing programs including:

  • “Research to determine the extent of, causes of, or remedies for research in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences that is neither replicable, reproducible, nor generalizable;
  • Methodological development to improve the robustness/reliability of research in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences (e.g., improvements in study design, data-sharing techniques, analytic techniques);
  • Outreach/training/workshops designed to enhance the robustness and reliability of research in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences, including increasing acceptability of explicit research in this area; and
  • Reproductions, replications, or generalizations of seminal or pivotal studies that have served a demonstrably critical role in conceptual or empirical progress in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences, including generalizations that demonstrate validity in atypical or nontraditional populations and samples. Reproduction, replication, or generalization projects require clear justification of the fundamental role of the seminal or pivotal studies in the scientific advance of social, behavioral, or economic sciences.”

Proposals are to be submitted to the most relevant SBE program.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 18), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Congress Passes Stopgap Funding Bill, Returns to Campaign Trail

Congress successfully passed a stopgap funding bill on September 28 to keep the government operating into fiscal year (FY) 2017, which began October 1. The bill will fund the government until December 9 and includes a number of policy and funding provisions that have been hotly debated in recent months, including funding to combat the Zika virus and the opioid epidemic, as well as aid in response to the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan and flooding in Louisiana. The text of the Continuing Resolution is available here. Congress will reconvene following the elections in November and what happens next remains uncertain. For full details of the fiscal year (FY) 2017 spending debate as it pertains to social science research, check out COSSA’s state of play analysis.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 4), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

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)

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