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NSF Seeking Candidates for Director of Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking candidates for the Director of the Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) within the Directorate of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE). The BCS Director is responsible for providing leadership and direction to the Division and implementing overall strategic planning. The BCS Division provides funding for research that helps advance scientific knowledge about the brain, human cognition, language, social behavior, and culture. Applications must be submitted by September 29, 2017. The position requirements can be found on USAJobs.

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

National Academies Event Highlights Recent SBE Report; Rep. Lipinski Adds his Support

On July 19, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine hosted a public discussion on a recently released consensus report requested by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The report, The Value of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences to National Priorities, discussed the overwhelming consensus that the social, behavioral, and economic sciences (SBE) significantly contribute to the advancement of NSF’s missions, the missions of other agencies, as well as the missions of businesses and industries. For a more detailed summary of the report, refer to COSSA’s summary. The public discussion of the report was comprised of an overview of the report, commentary, and roundtable discussion on implementing the report’s recommendations, as well as an opportunity for questions from the audience.

The key discussion topics that arose amongst the panelists and audience members included the implementation of strategic planning at NSF, the kind of priorities NSF and the SBE community should pursue through federally funded research, and the need for improved communication of SBE missions, contributions, and relevance to the public. Robert Groves, Provost at Georgetown University and Professor of Math, Statistics, and Sociology, argued that strategic planning cannot be implemented without careful consideration of the priorities that NSF plans to address. In discussion of those priorities, panelists and audience members were split on what they should be and whether priorities should be set according to the issues of importance to the public or according to which issues NSF’s tools, resources, and resources could impact most significantly.

On the topic of how to improve communication about SBE research, Valerie Reyna, Professor of Human Development and Psychology at Cornell University, and Arthur “Skip” Lupia, Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan and member of the SBE Directorate Advisory Committee at NSF, spoke about the need for explicit communication of the mission and value of SBE research by NSF and the SBE community. They also called for increasing the engagement of the general public and policymakers in SBE’s contributions to advancing NSF’s priorities. Cora Marrett, Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin Madison and former Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation, also noted the continuing need for a vibrant and diverse SBE community and priorities that align more closely with the public’s questions and needs.

Earlier in the month on July 12, Representative Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Research and Technology Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, spoke on the House floor about the value of the consensus report. Rep. Lipinski argued that SBE funded research advances the mission of NSF and helps other agencies and industries achieve their missions as well. According to Representative Lipinski, SBE “provides tools and methods that have helped business and industry grow the U.S. economy and create jobs.” He emphasized that SBE research helps understand the causes and consequences of human behavior, which affect every major challenge facing the nation. In order to continue to address these challenges, Lipinski insisted that continued robust investments in SBE are critical.

This article was contributed by COSSA’s summer intern, Shannon Emmett of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 25), 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.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 13), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

NSF Releases Dear Colleague Letter on Convergence Research

The National Science Foundation (NSF) published a Dear Colleague letter on April 4 outlining new opportunities at NSF for “convergence research” projects. NSF defines convergence research as projects that have “deep integration across disciplines,” are “driven by a specific and compelling problem,” and bring together diverse teams of scientists. The Dear Colleague letter identifies the 10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investment as prospects for convergence research topics, including Work at the Human-Technology Frontier, which is the “Big Idea” lead by the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 18), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

2017 National Academies Workshop on Current and Future Training Needs in Social and Behavioral Sciences

In an August 31 blog post, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) Director William Riley announced the convening of a 2017 National Academies workshop that is being sponsored by OBSSR and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate. The workshop will address the current and future training needs in the behavioral and social sciences and responds to the various reports in recent years that “indicate that a majority of behavioral and social sciences doctors are entering research careers in areas outside of the traditional academic research track; and even those going into academia face challenges initiating and maintaining a grant-supported research program.” Along with the “emerging technologies and big data efforts that are transforming the approaches and methods in the field, rethinking the graduate education of behavioral and social scientists is clearly needed,” Riley further noted. The OBSSR director shared that the project “has broad government support from the Social and Behavioral Sciences Subcommittee of the Committee on Science of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)” and has been identified as a “pressing need.” In addition, reexamining graduate training in social and behavioral sciences is a significant area of focus in the OBSSR’s Strategic Plan 2017-2020. Read Riley’s full blog post here.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 6), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

NSF Seeks Nominations for Advisory Committees

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued its annual call for recommendations for membership to its various advisory committees and technical boards. These committees advise NSF’s offices and directorates on program management, research direction, and policies impacting the agency.  Committees of particular interest to the COSSA community include the Advisory Committee for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences and the Advisory Committee for Education and Human Resources.  Recommendations for membership are maintained for 12 months. See the Federal Register notice for details on how to submit names.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 19), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

NSF Seeks Candidates for Division Director of Social and Economic Sciences

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting applications for the position of Division Director for the Social and Economic Sciences (SES) Division within the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE). The Division Director “provides leadership and direction for the support of research and education activities that develop and advance scientific knowledge focusing on political, economic, and social systems and how individuals and organizations function within them.” More information on the position can be found in the Dear Colleague Letter from SBE. Applications may be submitted through USAJOBS.

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Posted in Issue 18 (October 6), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

SBE-Funded Researchers Receive “Genius” Grants

Two of the recipients of the 2015 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (the so-called “genius” grants) are social scientists whose research is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate. The fellowship is awarded to individuals in any field “who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Fellows receive a no-strings-attached cash prize to pursue their work as they see fit.

Matthew Desmond is an urban sociologist at Harvard University whose work focuses on “the impact of eviction on poor families and the role of housing policy in sustaining poverty and racial inequality in large American cities.” He is the lead investigator on an SBE-funded research project, “Global Urbanization and Housing Affordability: Poverty, Property, and the City.” MIT economist Heidi Williams conducts research on the “causes and consequences of innovation in health care markets.” She is the recipient of an SBE CAREER award, “Empirical Studies of Innovation in Health Care Markets.”

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Posted in Issue 18 (October 6), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

NSF’s SBE Directorate Seeks to Fill Numerous Leadership Posts

The Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking interested applicants for several leadership posts, including directors for two SBE divisions. The open positions include:

In addition, NSF recently announced that Joanne Tornow, SBE Deputy Assistant Director, will leave SBE in December to lead the NSF Office of Information and Resource Management (OIRM). A search will commence for a new SBE Deputy Assistant Director. In the meantime, Clifford Gabriel, most recently the acting head of OIRM, will serve as Acting Deputy Assistant Director for SBE.

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Posted in Issue 20 (November 3), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

Events Calendar

11th Annual Brown Lecture in Education Research, American Educational Research Association, October 23, 2014

Measuring Dimensions of Subjective Well-Being: The Role of Official Statistics, National Academies Committee on National Statistics, October 24, 2014

Stimulating Effective Innovation in Government, National Academies Policy Roundtable of the Behavioral and Social Sciences, October 30, 2014

NSF Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Advisory Committee Fall Meeting, October 30-31, 2014

The City: 2014 Behavioral and Social Science Summit, Stanford University, November 8, 2014

A list of COSSA member conferences and annual meetings can be found on the COSSA website.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 20), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

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