Blog Archives

Trump Releases FY 2019 Budget Request; Read COSSA’s Analysis of Social Science Impacts

On February 12, the Trump Administration began releasing details of its fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget request to Congress, although details for some agencies (such as the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health) have yet to be released and are expected in the coming days or weeks. In light of a recent bipartisan agreement to increase discretionary spending over the next two years, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released an addendum to the FY 2019 budget outlining a number of adjustments to the budget request. However, the President’s views the new spending caps as a “ceiling” for FY 2019 funding, not as a funding target. As such, the request violates the budget deal by seeking to shift $57 billion away from nondefense discretionary spending and over to the defense side of the ledger.

The bottom line when considering the Trump Administration’s proposals for FY 2019 is that it remains a political, largely symbolic document that outlines the Administration’s priorities for the year ahead; take note of the policy priorities contained within the budget as they could shape some legislative and/or executive actions later in the year. However, Congress is not likely to go along with the bulk of the President’s recommendations, especially cuts for research and domestic programs writ large.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the President’s proposals as they pertain to social and behavioral science research. Supplements to this report will be issued as additional agency details are released.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 20), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Senate Commerce Committee Hears Updates from NSF, NIST Leaders

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation featured Dr. France Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Dr. Walter Copan, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in a hearing on January 30 to examine the implementation of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA). AICA was signed into law during the final days of the Obama Administration in January 2017. AICA’s priorities included maximizing basic research, improving STEM education, and encouraging commercialization and technology transfer opportunities. Both NSF and NIST have taken many steps toward implementing the law including increasing oversight and accountability at both agencies and emphasizing the priorities of the act at their agencies. Dr. Córdova’s written testimony included a complete analysis of the steps NSF has taken to comply with the policy directives in the AICA.

During the hearing, Senators from both parties expressed concern about the U.S. being surpassed by China and other countries in terms of funding for science and innovation and called for continued diligence on the part of Congress and federal science agencies to maintain the U.S.’s position as the world’s leading innovator. Many Senators also discussed the importance of extending research opportunities and STEM education to diverse populations including community colleges, colleges and universities in EPSCoR states, minority communities, and women.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 6), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

After Three-Day Shutdown, Congress Passes Funding through February 8

Congressional leaders came to an agreement on January 22 to reopen the government after a three-day shutdown by passing another stopgap spending bill, this time to keep the government open and flat-funded until February 8. Fiscal year (FY) 2018 started October 1, 2017 and Congress has yet to pass any appropriation bills for the year.

Congress came to the funding impasse on January 19 after the Senate failed to reach an agreement on immigration policy, which will now likely occupy much of Congress’ energy until the continuing resolution expires on February 8, at which point the federal government could be facing yet another shutdown. As COSSA has previously reported, Congress must also come to an agreement on the top-line spending levels allowed by law before finishing the FY 2018 appropriations process. Read more of COSSA’s reporting on FY 2018 here.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 23), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Early Bird Registration Open for 2018 COSSA Science Policy Conference

Early bird registration is now open for COSSA’s 2018 Science Policy Conference & Social Science Advocacy Day, which will take place on April 30 – May 1 in Washington, DC. Registration rates will increase on January 16, so register now! Attendees affiliated with COSSA member organizations can receive an additional discount by using their exclusive member coupon code (email jmilton@cossa.org for details). In addition, students can register for a special price of $50. Interested students should email jmilton@cossa.org with your field of study, university, and anticipated year of graduation to receive the student discount code. More information about the conference, including sponsorship information and details on the conference hotel block, is available on the COSSA website.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 9), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Congress Passes Two-Week Stopgap Funding Bill, Returns to Debate Spending and Taxes

Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) on the evening of December 7 to continue federal appropriations through December 22, averting a partial government shutdown. The extension of fiscal year (FY) 2017 funding levels through this CR will give Congress more time to finalize FY 2018 spending and come to agreement on raising spending caps set in place by the Budget Control Act. While the House of Representatives has finished work on all twelve of its spending bills, the Senate has yet to vote on any, referencing a lack of agreement on overall spending levels.

In addition to finalizing spending for the current fiscal year, House and Senate Republicans continue to negotiate differences on their proposed tax overhaul. Debate on taxes and annual appropriations will likely carry them to, if not past, their scheduled Christmas recess. Read more of COSSA’s coverage of the tax debate here and FY 2018 spending here.

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Posted in Issue 24 (December 12), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Save the Date: 2018 COSSA Science Policy Conference and Social Science Advocacy Day – April 30 & May 1

COSSA’s 2018 Science Policy Conference and Social Science Advocacy Day will take place on April 30 and May 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. The Conference brings together COSSA members and other stakeholders for a day of discussion about federal policy impacting our science followed by the only annual, coordinated advocacy day in support of all of the social and behavioral sciences. Early bird registration will open later in December. More details will be posted on the Conference webpage as they are made available.

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Posted in Issue 23 (November 28), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

House and Senate Release Bipartisan Evidence-Based Policymaking Bill

On November 1, members of the House and Senate introduced the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, the “down-payment” legislation that would enact some of the less complicated (and less controversial) recommendations of the report from the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (see COSSA’s coverage and statement). The bill was introduced in the House by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) as H.R. 4174 and cosponsored by Representatives Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and in the Senate by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) as S. 2046 and cosponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform unanimously approved the House version of the bill on November 2, and the bill is scheduled for consideration by the full chamber on Wednesday, November 15. While the Senate Committee with jurisdiction over the bill (Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs) has not yet scheduled a markup of the Senate’s bill, Speaker Ryan is reportedly keen to see the legislation enacted by the end of the year, so the bill in the Senate could be attached to “must-pass” legislation, like an appropriations bill. COSSA has joined more than 100 organizations and leaders in a letter in support of the bill. Speaker Ryan and Sen. Murray had also pledged to introduce additional legislation to implement some of the more complex recommendations of the Commission, perhaps next year, although that likely depends on the success of the bill introduced this month.

The bill makes progress towards implementing 13 of the Commission’s recommendations, across the three major themes of the Commission’s report: strengthening privacy protections, improving access to data, and enhancing the government’s evidence-building capacity. Highlights include codifying Statistical Policy Directive #1 (which defines the responsibilities of principal statistical agencies as producers of relevant, timely and objective data while protecting the trust and confidentiality of data providers), mandating that agencies create evidence-building plans, establishing the roles of Chief Evaluation Officers and Chief Data Officers, strengthening the coordinating role of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and establishing a uniform process for outside researchers to apply for access to restricted federal data. The bill would also begin the process of examining the feasibility of the National Secure Data Service proposed by the Commission by establishing an Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building. The bill also incorporates a version of the OPEN Government Data Act (H.R. 1770/S. 760), introduced by Rep. Kilmer and Sen. Schatz, which would require that federal agencies make their data public and accessible by default (unless there were compelling reasons not to) and create inventories of federal data.

The Bipartisan Policy Center, which is housing the ongoing activities of the Commission, has published a thorough summary of the bill and cross-referenced the Commission’s recommendations with the provisions in the legislation.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 14), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

COSSA Joins Societies in Requesting Changes to NIH Clinical Trial Policy

In a letter sent to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins on October 27, COSSA and 21 other scientific societies and associations requested that NIH revisit a new policy that alters the definition of “clinical trials” funded by the agency and institutes new reporting requirements for such research (see COSSA’s coverage of this issue). While the letter is supportive of the goal of enhancing transparency of NIH-funded research, including introducing registration and reporting requirements, the signatories express concern that “basic science research is being redefined as a clinical trial at NIH and that “basic science investigators will be unnecessarily burdened with requirements relating to conducting clinical trials that have nothing to do with their own research.” The organizations hope to work with NIH leadership to find a solution that addresses the concerns of the basic science community while still improving transparency for true clinical trial research.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 31), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

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.

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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.

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

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