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Congresswoman Johnson Defends NSF’s Merit Review Process

Last week, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ranking Member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, released a letter penned to Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) expressing concern over the chairman’s ongoing “investigation” into the merit review process at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and criticism of individual grants funded by NSF. Her letter comes as Chairman Smith has issued a third request in 18 months for NSF to provide the Committee with confidential, pre-decisional merit review documents for 30 additional grants; Smith has previously asked for documentation on a group of five grants and a second group of 20 grants earlier this year.

In her letter to the Chairman, Johnson states, “The plain truth is that there are no credible allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse associated with these [awards]. The only issue with them appears to be that you, personally, think that the grants sound wasteful based on your understanding of their titles and purpose.”

Also last week, Johnson posted online for public consumption all of the correspondence between Chairman Smith and NSF regarding the grants in question.

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Posted in Issue 18 (October 6), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

Rep. Johnson Defends Social Science and Education Research at Dyslexia Hearing

The full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on The Science of Dyslexia on September 18. The panel heard from the co-chairs of the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus, researchers whose work focuses on dyslexia, and other advocates. Much of the discussion focused on how to better leverage the wealth of scientific evidence we have to help children and adults with dyslexia succeed. However, in her opening statement, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), pointed out that much of this knowledge is the product of those disciplines members of the Committee have disparaged in the past: “A significant amount of the NSF [National Science Foundation] research relevant to dyslexia is funded out of the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate and the Education and Human Resources Directorate. That is why I have fought efforts in this Committee to slash funding for these important NSF Directorates, which fund valuable research that turns out to have broader, and often unanticipated, applications to other high-priority research – as we are seeing here today.”

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

Congress Returns this Week for Short, Packed Work Period

The House and Senate return to Washington this week from their month-long August recess. They have only a couple of weeks to address a number of major policy issues, such as immigration, the child migrant crisis on the border, and ongoing foreign conflicts, before both chambers adjourn again until after the November midterm elections. Among the to-dos in the coming weeks is consideration of a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government operating into fiscal year (FY) 2015, which begins on October 1. The outcome of the elections weighs heavily on potential end-game strategies for the FY 2015 appropriations bills, with much hinging on whether the Democrats maintain control of the Senate or lose the majority to the Republicans.

For a recap on the current status of the FY 2015 appropriations bills important to the COSSA community, please see the August 11, 2014 COSSA Washington Update.

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Posted in Issue 16 (September 8), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

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