September 13, 2004
Volume 23, Issue 15
Congress returned to Washington after a six week recess on September 7. With less than a month to go before they hope to leave town again to campaign, it appears very likely that much of their work will remain incomplete. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has informed his colleagues and the press that a post-election, lame-duck session will probably be necessary.
With Fiscal Year 2005 set to begin on October 1, 2004, only one of the thirteen appropriations bills, Defense, has been enacted into law. The Senate hopes to complete action on the Homeland Security bill soon. The fate of the 11 other spending bills remains uncertain. Because of term limits, Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Bill Young (R-FL) will have to relinquish their positions after this session. They both would like to complete the FY 2005 spending bills this year as a final legacy, before their time runs out.
Whether this is accomplished may depend upon the election results. If there is a change in the White House or in the Senate and/or House majority, this could complicate things greatly. Even if there are no significant changes, it could be mid-November – at the earliest – or the first few months of 2005, before the funding picture becomes complete.
The Senate, which still has nine spending bills that have yet to make it through the full Appropriations Committee, is trying very hard to catch up to the House, which has passed 11 of the 13 bills. During the week of September 13, the Senate Appropriations Committee may consider the Agriculture and VA-HUD Independent Agencies bills. The latter contains funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF).
All of these bills have been constrained by the overall spending limits that Congress has adopted in lieu of its failure to pass a budget resolution. In addition, the continued expectation of record absolute dollar budget deficits has also hampered growth in some parts of the budget. Yet, the need for Supplemental Appropriations bills, which are outside the budget caps, to restock the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s budget to help hurricane victims in Florida, has presented an opportunity to fund certain other agencies and take some of the pressure off the regular appropriations legislation.
The non-budgetary agenda is led by the continued consideration of the report of the 9/11 Commission and its recommendations for overhauling the nation’s intelligence apparatus. The Senate will be responsible for considering President Bush’s nomination of Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) as the new head of the CIA. Other legislation, such as the highway and mass transit reauthorization, a bill to reauthorize the Justice Department, including the Office of Justice Programs, extending part of the President’s tax cuts, welfare reauthorization, and the energy bill, are also on the agenda, but limitations on time as well as partisan bickering exacerbated by the presidential contest will make enactment of some of these quite difficult.
When a Federal agency has its budget doubled in five years, its expenditures attract a great deal of attention. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been a “most favored” agency for many years. In the eyes of many of its supporters on Capitol Hill, the research it funds saves lives, including in some cases, their own. Thus, from 1998 to 2003 NIH’s budget grew from $13 billion to over $27 billion.
NIH uses an elaborate system of peer review to choose its successful grantees. From time to time, Members of Congress wonder about the efficacy of the peer review system. They clearly believe that Members, especially those on the appropriations committees, have the right to determine how federal money is spent, even at the individual grant level. Thus, on many spending bills, they simply earmark funds for specific projects.
Last year, during consideration of the NIH FY 2004 budget as part of the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill, Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced an amendment to defund five approved NIH grants because he didn’t think that research on sexual behavior and health was a proper area in which to fund NIH studies. The House defeated the Toomey amendment by two votes (see UPDATE July 14, 2003).
On September 9, the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill once again came to the House floor. This time, a member who came to the Congress in a special election in 2003, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), decided to attack the NIH peer review process and sponsored an amendment to prohibit further funding for two grants. The two, supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, included a University of Missouri study that examined the mental and physical health benefits of focusing on positive life goals through journal writing. The study aimed to determine if self-help tools can alleviate depression. The second study, conducted by a University of Texas at Austin researcher, also focused on depression, particularly among college students, by assessing how physical and virtual environments that individuals choose for themselves can convey psychological disorders.
Neugebauer and his allies, Reps. Mike Spence (R-IN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), mocked the studies and indicated that the money could be better spent on other “more serious” mental health issues. During the debate, Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-MO), whose district includes the University of Missouri, strongly defended the study and the principal investigator, Laura King, who has won numerous awards, including the Templeton prize in positive psychology. He scolded Neugebauer for portraying the studies “in a simplistic way.” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) defended the University of Texas study, conducted by Samuel Gosling. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) circulated a Dear Colleague letter urging defeat of the amendment.
The irony of the whole debate is that both studies have been completed. No FY 2005 NIH funds are going to be spent on them. For that reason, Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH), who in an earlier letter with House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Bill Young (R-FL), urged colleagues to discuss their problems with individual grants with NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, took a nonchalant attitude toward the Neugebauer amendment. He decided not to oppose it, while at the same time suggesting that NIH “ought to be cautious about what type of grants they fund.” The Neugebauer amendment passed by voice vote, with very few Members on the House floor. If this had been a court case, it would have been thrown out because the issue was moot. Yet, as Hulshof pointed out, the amendment allowed Neugebauer to attain some publicity for his re-election contest against Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-TX) in one of the new Texas districts where incumbents have been thrown together.
This somewhat anti-climactic denouement hid an enormous amount of work done by the Coalition to Protect Research (CPR), co-chaired by Angela Sharpe of COSSA and Karen Studwell of the American Psychological Association. The Coalition, consisting of 58 groups across the wide spectrum of NIH supporters, provided Congress with huge amounts of information about the peer review process, NIH’s role in supporting research on biomedical and behavioral aspects of health, and convinced Members not to attack NIH again over its funding of sexual behavior and health grants.
The House subsequently approved the bill. The Senate has yet to take up the Labor, HHS, Education funding legislation. It is widely expected that the bill will not pass as regular legislation, but will either be part of a Continuing Resolution or wrapped into an Omnibus spending bill that will likely pass in a lame-duck session.
Responding to patient groups and others such as its former director Harold Varmus, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced its intention to “ensure that scientific information arising from NIH-funded research is available in a timely fashion.” In order to accomplish this, NIH intends to request that scientists provide it with electronic copies of all final version manuscripts upon acceptance for publication, if the research was supported in whole or in part by NIH funding. Six months after an NIH study’s publication, the manuscript will be made freely available to the public through PubMed Central, NIH’s digital repository for biomedical research (sooner if the publisher cooperates). NIH defines “final manuscript” as “the author’s version resulting after all modifications due to the peer review process.”
NIH is requesting comments on this policy proposal by November 3, 2004. The full notice can be found at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/not-od-04-064.html.
NIH Director Elias Zerhouni has spent the past few months meeting with many groups, publishers, professional associations, scientists, patient advocates, and others to try and hammer out this new policy. The notice indicates that NIH is aware of the need to balance the provision of free access to NIH-supported research with the ability of journals and publishers to preserve their critical role in the peer review, editing, and scientific quality control process. In addition, NIH understands that “the economic and business implications of any changes must be considered.” NIH hopes to continue the dialogue with interested parties.
The proposed notice appears to satisfy Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK), who inserted language concerning this issue into the report accompanying the House Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill. Istook’s provision noted the “insufficient public access to reports resulting from NIH-funded research.” He also suggested “the dramatic rise in scientific journal subscription prices…contrary to the best interests of the U.S. taxpayers who paid for this research” only exacerbated the situation.
In a colloquy with Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) during House consideration of the bill on September 8, Istook approved of Zerhouni’s actions and declared that the proposed policy “moves NIH in the direction of making more research available to the people who financed it, namely the American taxpayers.” He declared that he approves the NIH proposal “as being consistent with the language in our bill…” Regula agreed and encouraged NIH to move expeditiously to finalize the proposal after considering the comments it receives.
This issue reflects the public’s continued demand for easier, direct, unfiltered access to information that affects their lives, particularly in the health arena. This is another example where personal responsibility and empowerment have been made possible by the Internet and the information technology revolution.
While Congress took its summer vacation, the National Academies of Science were busy speculating about the future of disaster research in an August 23 seminar entitled “Disaster Research in the Social Sciences: Future Challenges and Opportunities.” This is relevant in light of COSSA’s June Congressional Briefing on “Risk and Crisis Communication,” for which edited transcripts are now available (see UPDATE June 14, 2004).
The seminar attendees included insurance executives, engineers, local emergency managers, homeland security experts, and social scientists. The NAS Committee on Disaster Research in the Social Sciences was formed through the National Research Council, with NSF support, and was commissioned to conduct an 18-month study on the future challenges and opportunities in the field. The Committee, chaired by Gary Kreps of the College of William and Mary, held this meeting in preparation for its final report.
Insuring for Terrorism
The seminar spanned several issues, the first of which involved how the companies who insure families and businesses against natural disasters and unforeseen events such as terrorist attacks calculate risk and potential losses. Howard Kunreuther of the University of Pennsylvania and James Ament of State Farm insurance spoke at length about the curve that is used to determine premiums and coverage, whether for floods, fires, earthquakes, or terrorism. Kunreuther introduced the problems associated with insuring events that have “ambiguous” risk. In the case of fire, for example, the potential loss of life and property is calculable, as are the probabilities of a fire starting, given the location of the property, those residing or working within it, and their behaviors. Before 9/11, he said, the risk of terrorism was calculated to be so miniscule that it was covered within the standard coverage categories – potential attacks were never excluded, but were also never explicitly named within the terms of coverage. However, after 9/11, the realization set in that not only were the previous probabilities miscalculated, but the potential losses were unknown. This uncertainty provided the impetus for the Terrorism Insurance Protection Act, or TIPA. This legislation mandated that insurers cover these unpredictable events without specific premiums, while above a certain threshold, the federal government would provide subsidies for the coverage of commercial firms.
Homeowners’ Risky Behavior Open to Speculation
Joseph Coughlin, a senior policy advisor at the National Flood Insurance Program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), sparked lively debate among the attendees by inferring that homeowners who choose not to purchase disaster insurance have a “welfare mentality,” expecting federal aid in the event of an emergency and choosing not to insure their property despite a knowledge of the risks involved. Kathleen Tierney, the Director of the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, was the first of many to strongly challenge this notion, citing examples of mobile homeowners who could afford to buy their home, but could not afford insurance for it. Other members of the panel and attendees discussed the possibility that homeowners were unaware of the severity of the risks involved, regardless of their ability to pay for insurance. Furthermore, Tierney suggested that an area for future
social science research would be analyzing the extent to which government subsidies encourage risk-taking behavior.
Tierney went on to moderate the next panel, which addressed multidisciplinary centers for disaster research and the ways in which social scientists can collaborate with engineers to better understand the nature of these disasters and the losses that they may exact upon the community. Steven French of the Georgia Institute of Technology pointed out the advantages of collaboration between the engineering and social science communities. According to French, while engineers can calculate the physical losses that an earthquake may inflict in terms of lives and property, it is the social science community that can make the analysis more comprehensive by estimating the economic and social consequences of such a disaster. In addition, Jack Moehle of the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center showed how engineers in California are beginning to collaborate with social scientists in order to form a performance-based system of engineering that takes into account practical expectations of a building’s performance during a disaster.
CREATE Sets the Standard for Homeland Security Centers of Excellence
As we mentioned in the July 12, 2004 edition of UPDATE, the Department of Homeland Security is funding Homeland Security Centers of Excellence. Rae Zimmerman of New York University is the head of the NYU-Wagner Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems (ICIS) partnership in the first-ever Center of Excellence. The Homeland Security Center for Risk and Economic Modeling of Terrorism Events (CREATE), headquartered at the University of Southern California, models and analyzes potential terrorism scenarios, including the forms in which they might present themselves, their potential losses, and the subsequent economic impacts. As with many of the studies that have been discussed thus far, CREATE employs experts in a multitude of disciplines, spanning both the engineering and social sciences, producing a host of research products that are proving useful in disaster preparedness. In addition, the Center offers a professional masters program, several short courses, and PhD fellowships.
One of the primary objectives of CREATE’s research is to optimize homeland security preparation, including identifying cost-effective ways in which to prepare for individual threats, optimally allocating responsibilities for countering threats before they occur, and allocating needed resources to these areas in advance. According to Zimmerman, some of the least immediately life-threatening attack strategies may reap the most widespread consequences, such as an attack on our electrical systems.
Thus, more preparation and modeling scenarios are needed to shorten and ease recovery periods. CREATE looks to remain a powerful entity for several years, as it aids in creating and informing future Homeland Security Centers of Excellence.
Local Emergency Managers Request More Relevance, Less Jargon
Aside from a robust discussion on some of the individual disaster research projects, a panel of local emergency managers brought broad clarity to the current relationship between researchers and local users. From these presentations and the discussion that followed, it became clear that in order to implement research in the local communities, social scientists must produce simplified, “layman’s” versions of their work as it pertains to disaster preparedness and emergency management.
According to Frances Edwards, the Director for Emergency Services in San Jose, CA, while many emergency managers have advanced degrees, the vast majority either do not read the academic journals in which disaster research findings are published, or they are unaware that such publications might be useful in emergency planning. Both Edwards and Richard Rotanz, the Commissioner for the Office of Emergency Management in Nassau County, NY, agreed that the only way in which most local managers receive information regarding new disaster research is through intermediary sources. Moreover, managers are usually working with a small staff and limited time, which virtually eliminates their ability to read lengthy research articles, especially if the materials are not directly brought to their attention through bulletins or email.
Practitioners, according to the panel, prefer a succinct, journalistic style that is specific to their work. Too often, said Edwards, articles that could greatly impact the ways in which emergency managers approach their jobs are written in “the arcane patois of academe,” which is difficult to understand for those who may be unfamiliar with it. Essentially, the keyword for social scientists to take away from this particular panel is: Accessibility.
International Development and Risk
Beyond the national scope, in places such as Latin America and the Caribbean, the ramifications of disasters on economic development are providing plentiful opportunities for social science research. Caroline Clarke, a specialist in disaster prevention with the Inter Development Bank (IDB), contended that despite rising disaster awareness in these developing countries, they remain unprepared to address the risks these disasters pose for development. Often post-disaster recovery and reconstruction is made at the expense of social and economic investments that are sorely needed for growth, said Clarke.
Some overarching questions Clarke posed for social science research were: How do disasters affect development prospects in developing countries? What factors generally restrain countries from adopting adequate risk management? In general, she pointed out, Latin American and Caribbean countries only focus upon recovery and reconstruction for large natural disasters that may overwhelm their ability to cope, paying scarce attention to smaller events and the need to set out preventative measures for the economy.
Anthony Oliver-Smith, a professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida, gave examples of projects in Asia and Latin America on disaster mitigation and preparation. The Inter-American Institute for Climate Change Research currently funds the ENSO Program for Disaster Risk in Latin America, which tries to account for the social and economic disaster risk conditions present in these regions that other projections and forecasts fail to consider. Also, the Development of Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster Mitigation Technologies and their Integration for the Asia Pacific Region (EqTAP) project, funded by the Japanese government, uses collaborators from 15 counterpart countries.
Oliver-Smith pointed out that there are several inherent barriers toward international disaster research collaboration, namely language, research orientation, funding, cultural differences, and research management styles. However, he contended that there are several advantages to this type of cross-border work, such as the availability of new research tools, capable counterparts, a comparative perspective, the opportunity to forge institutional linkages, and the study of complex disasters that are complicated by globalization.
On the whole, the Committee’s seminar delivered a few powerful messages: namely that there is a need for behavioral, social, and economic impact research both in the U.S. and abroad, but also that there is a need for social scientists to build a bridge between their academic research and the communities it may impact. Making research accessible to disaster workers and emergency managers may be crucial in assuring a lasting empirical impact where it is needed most; on the ground in local jurisdictions.
The third Gordon Research Conference on Science and Technology Policy took place from August 15-20 at the Big Sky Resort in Montana. Co-chaired by Susan Fitzpatrick of the James S. McDonnell Foundation and Jane Maienschein of Arizona State University, the meeting brought together over 150 scientists, policy analysts, and science advocates, to discuss the questions of who wins, who loses, and who cares in S&T policy.
Since Gordon conferences are off-the-record, what was said cannot be reported, but the topics included: information technology and info-security; the reliance on scientific expertise; biotechnology policies, including stem cell research and genetically modified foods; ethical, legal, and social implications of S&T; forest fire policies, including a field trip to Yellowstone National Park to examine the regeneration from the 1988 fire devastation; and climate change policy. The speakers included: Ruzena Bajscy, formerly head of the Computer Science Directorate at the National Science Foundation; Skip Stiles, former key aide to the late Rep. George Brown (D-CA); Donna Dean, former Deputy Director of the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering; Joe Palca of National Public Radio; and Michael Gazzaniga, a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.
COSSA Executive Director Howard J. Silver served on the planning committee for the conference and moderated a lively panel on “Science as Expertise, Morality, and Politics: Politics Isn’t Policy,” whose participants included: Jeff Smith of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle’s (D-SD) office; Daniel Sarewitz of the Center for Science, Policy, and Outcomes, now at Arizona State; Pete Farnham of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; and Nicola Partridge of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School of New Jersey.
Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, spoke at the conference and provided it with financial support. This support, along with help from the Greenwall Foundation, allowed the participation of many graduate students who presented very interesting posters as well as making significant contributions to the discussion. The National Science Foundation also provided support for the conference. Participants agreed that a fourth conference should take place in August 2006 again at the Big Sky Resort.
COSSA welcomes the Council on Social Work Education, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and Arizona State University as our newest members. We greatly appreciate their support and look forward to working with them on issues of interest to their social and behavioral science programs.
Transcripts from the Consortium’s first two Congressional Briefings of 2004 are now available. Detecting Deception: Research to Secure the Homeland features Charles F. Bond of Texas Christian University, Judee Burgoon of the University of Arizona, and Mark G. Frank of Rutgers University.
Risk and Crisis Communication: Building Trust and Explaining Complexities When Emergencies Arise features H. Dan O’Hair of the University of Oklahoma, Havidan Rodriguez of the University of Delaware, and Katherine Rowan of George Mason University.
COSSA provides this information as a service and encourages readers to contact the sponsoring agency for information. Additional application guidelines and restrictions may apply.
The Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education has posted the following request for applications (RFA):
Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship Program
The program provides opportunities for faculty members of institutions of higher education and graduate students to engage in research and study abroad in modern foreign languages and area studies. Priority will be given to projects that focus on one or more of the following areas: Africa, East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, South Asia, the Near East, East Central Europe and Eurasia, and the Western Hemisphere (Canada, Central and South America, and the Caribbean). The deadline for applications is October 19, 2004.
For more information, faculty members should access the August 23 Federal Register at: www.gpo.gov
The Association Liaison Office for University Cooperation in Development (ALO), in cooperation with USAID, has posted the following RFA as part of USAID’s Democracy and Governance Programs:
Cross National Research on USAID’s Democracy and Governance Programs
The aim of the project is to enhance the state of the art of democracy and governance assistance and provide new data and insights to academics, democracy implementers, and donors. It is anticipated that this research and analysis will help USAID determine whether, how and under what circumstances there is a relationship between democracy programs and various aspects of political change in targeted countries, and provide data useful for subsequent in-depth country and activity-level comparisons that will follow. There will be one (1) 10-month award of up to $300,000 for a special project to conduct quantitative research and analysis related to USAID and other donor democracy and governance programs.
The deadline for receipt of applications is October 12, 2004.
Health Disparities Among Minority and Underserved Women
The National Institutes of Health (Nursing, Child Health and Human Development, Drug Abuse, Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, and the Office of Research on Women’s Health) is seeking to stimulate research aimed at reducing health disparities among racial/ethnic minority and underserved women. Applications are being encouraged for proposals on 1) research related to health promotion or risk reduction, and (2) intervention studies that show promise for improving the health profile of minority and underserved women. Investigators are encouraged to focus on enhancing the body of knowledge of a variety of actors (e.g., social, economic, demographic, community, societal, personal, cultural) influencing the health promoting and health compromising behaviors of racial and ethnic minority women and underserved women. For more information see: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-04-153.html
As the new academic year begins, COSSA returns from its Congressional Recess respite to continue coverage of the activity in Washington that may impact social and behavioral science researchers. The UPDATE is published bi-weekly as a means by which to keep social and behavioral scientists engaged and abreast of the issues that affect them here in the center of the United States’ policy-making community. COSSA attempts to cover not only legislative and executive branch activity, but also seminars and briefings promoting ongoing dialogue regarding the issues relevant to our associations. With UPDATE currently in its twenty-third volume, our focus remains maintaining a bridge between the academic and policy-making communities. Tune in for the next issue, as the year gears up for its political climax before the November elections.
Inside . . .