Anti-Science COMPETES Bill Heads to House Floor

Earlier this evening, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee passed along party lines (19 Republicans to 16 Democrats) the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806).  According to Committee Chairman and sponsor of the legislation Lamar Smith (R-TX), H.R. 1806 is a “pro-science and fiscally responsible bill.”  It prioritizes basic research at the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), while keeping funding levels within Congressionally-set discretionary spending limits.  For NSF, the bill would increase funding for the Biological Sciences (BIO), Engineering (ENG), Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), and Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorates at the expense of other NSF accounts, including Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) and Geosciences (GEO).  See COSSA’s analysis of H.R. 1806 for more information.

COSSA strongly opposes H.R. 1806 and issued a statement last week expressing our concerns.

Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) had harsh words for the bill during the more than five hour-long markup, noting that H.R. 1806 is the “combination of two bad bills” from last year, becoming a “doubly bad bill.”  Further, she noted that the original America COMPETES Act enacted in 2007 and its reauthorization in 2010 were “landmark” pieces of legislation, vetted by dozens of scientific stakeholders through a transparent process.  In contrast, H.R. 1806 was developed by Committee Republicans behind closed doors without federal agency or stakeholder input.  In addition, while the previous two COMPETES bills aimed to ensure America’s preeminence in science and engineering, Johnson continued, the bill before the Committee “questions the motives of NSF and the integrity of scientists.”  She expressed her embarrassment over the Committee’s consideration of the bill, noting that the nation would be better off with no bill than with H.R. 1806.

Johnson entered into the Committee record 30 letters (including COSSA’s) raising opposition or serious concerns with the legislation.  In contrast, she noted that the previous COMPETES bills received hundreds of endorsements.

Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) called the targeting of SBE and GEO within H.R. 1806 a “partisan distraction” from what could otherwise be an important message on science, adding that the cuts to social science would be detrimental.  He expressed his commitment to finding a bipartisan compromise, but added that he is unsure how to get there with this bill.

The Committee considered more than 30 amendments during the markup, most from the Committee’s Democratic members.  About half of the amendments addressed concerns within the NSF title of the bill, including an amendment by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) that would have struck the specific authorizations for NSF’s individual directorates, and amendments that would delete language tying NSF research to issues of “national interest” and misrepresentation of research results.  These amendments were defeated along party lines.

Of particular note was an amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Ranking Member Johnson, which took the form of a Democratic alternative bill to H.R. 1806 that was introduced on April 21, also called the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1898).  Every Democratic member of Science Committee signed on to H.R. 1898 as original cosponsors.

Like the Republican bill that passed through the Committee today, the Johnson bill would authorize research efforts at NSF, DOE’s Office of Science, and NIST.  However, that is where the similarities end.

The Johnson bill would authorize NSF for fiscal years (FY) 2016 through 2020; the Smith bill only provides authorizations for FY 2016-2017, requiring that the Committee turn back to NSF reauthorization in a year or so.  In addition, the Democrats’ bill sets much more ambitious and sustained funding levels for the agency, with nearly 5 percent growth each year:

COMPETES 2015 markup

Further, the Johnson bill does not provide specific authorizations for NSF’s research directorates.  Instead, it keeps with the current practice of providing an authorization for Research and Related Activities, Education and Human Resources, and other high-level accounts, and maintains NSF’s flexibility for determining how best to prioritize research funding.

The Johnson amendment in the nature of a substitute was defeated along party lines.  Further the Science Committee is not expected to take up the Johnson COMPETES bill as a standalone measure.

H.R. 1806 now heads to the House floor for a vote.  The bill’s predecessor, known as the FIRST Act in 2014, never received a floor vote. However, reports indicate that Chairman Smith is hoping to bring the bill to the floor in the near future, potentially as soon as next week.

Meanwhile, the Senate has not yet introduced COMPETES reauthorization legislation this year.  However, Smith and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) issued a joint statement earlier today expressing their intent to work together on a COMPETES bill this year.

COSSA members and others can continue to weigh in on H.R. 1806 by writing to your Congressperson, especially as we head toward a potential floor vote in the coming week(s).

Follow the action: #NOtoHR1806#Stand4Science@COSSADC

 

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Posted in Issue 8 (May 5), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

COSSA Washington Update, Volume 34 Issue 7

Featured News

Federal Agency & Administration News

Funding Opportunities

COSSA Member Spotlight

Events Calendar

Posted in Issue 7 (April 21), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

NIH: Collaborative Innovation Award, Clinical and Translational Science Award Program

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is inviting applications to stimulate innovative collaborative research in the NCATS Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) consortium.  Because translating biomedical discoveries into clinical applications is essential to improving health and at the same time a complex process with high costs and substantial failure rates, the CTSA hubs are designed to promote advances in translational research and training at participating medical research institutions.  NCATS recently released a funding opportunity announcement (FOA), Collaborative Innovation Award, Clinical and Translational Science Award Program (PAR-15-172), to enable collaboration among CTSA hubs to overcome system-wide barriers in translational effectiveness.

“Translation” is defined by NCATS as “the process of turning observations in the laboratory, clinic, and community into interventions that improve the health of individuals, and the public, from diagnostics and therapeutics in medical procedures and behavioral change.”

The FOA is one of several sequential steps being taken by NCATS to evolve the CTSA program to augment its ability, as recommended by a recent Institute of Medicine report (see Update, August 11, 2014). It seeks to encourage all of the CTSA hubs to collaboratively conceptualize, develop, and implement multi-site innovative experimental approaches that overcome translational barriers in science, operations, and training.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 21), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

PAA/PRB Briefing Explores the Changing Landscape of Marriage

The Population Association of America, a COSSA governing member, and the Population Reference Bureau, also a COSSA member, held a congressional briefing on April 17 called “The Vow Factor: Marriage, Divorce and Family Formation & their Impact on Health and Well-Being.” COSSA was a co-sponsor of the briefing. Moderated by Robert Moffitt of Johns Hopkins University, the briefing featured presentations on trends and consequences of changes in marriage and parenthood. Andrew J. Cherlin, Johns Hopkins University, gave a presentation on the education-based gap in the marriage rate. Lisa Berkman, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, discussed how single motherhood and maternity leave polices affect women’s health much later in life. The final speaker, Elizabeth Peters, Urban Institute, spoke about incentives for couples to marry and father involvement. A video recording of the presentations will be posted on the Population Reference Bureau’s website.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 21), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Events Calendar

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, April 21-25, 2015

Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions, San Antonio, TX, April 22-25, 2015

Population Association of America Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, April 30-May 2, 2015

American Association for Public Opinion Research Annual Conference, Hollywood, FL, May 14-17, 2015

Law and Society Association Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA, May 28-31, 2015

OBSSR 20th Anniversary Celebration, Bethesda, MD, June 23-25, 2015

A list of COSSA members’ annual meetings and other events can be found on the COSSA
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Posted in Issue 7 (April 21), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

NIH Appoints Working Group for Precision Medicine Initiative

In March, National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Francis Collins appointed a team of individuals to serve on the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) Working Group on the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). The Working Group is expected to host public meetings to seek public input into the development of President Obama’s proposed Precision Medicine Initiative. This group will help the NIH define “what can be learned from a study of this scale and scope, what issues will need to be addressed and considered as part of the study design, and what success would look like five and ten years out.”

PMI was launched by President Obama on January 30 and called for initial funding of $215 million in the President’s FY 2016 budget request. This sum includes $130 million dedicated to initiating the process of building a one million or more research cohort of individuals who will volunteer to share biological, environmental, lifestyle, and behavioral information and tissue samples with researchers. It is emphasized that “Participant input through representation on the working group, workshops and other feedback mechanisms will be central to the design and implementation of the study.” Read more ›

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 21), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

House COMPETES Bill Targets Social Science

On April 15, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith introduced the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806). This is legislation to reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill is scheduled for a markup by the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on Wednesday, April 22.

While there are some noticeable changes from the bill that the scientific community rallied against last year (known as the FIRST Act), the new bill, authored by Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, continues to challenge the value of social and behavioral science research and restricts NSF’s ability to drive its own research agenda.  COSSA strongly opposes this legislation and released a statement on April 17 detailing its objections.

COSSA’s full analysis of the bill can be found here.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 21), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

AHRQ 2014 Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report Shows Improved Overall Quality and Access, Lingering Disparities

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released its congressionally mandated report to Congress on the status of health care quality and disparities in the U.S. In past years, this information has been released as two separate reports (the National Healthcare Quality Report and the National Healthcare Disparities Report). For 2014, AHRQ has chosen to combine the two into the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report (QDR). The agency believes that combining the reports “highlights the importance of examining quality and disparities together to gain a complete picture of health care.” The 2014 report is shorter and more focused than prior year reports, although the complete data will be made available in the form of chartbooks that will be posted monthly beginning in April.

The report shows improvements in the insurance rates for non-Medicare-eligible adults and improvement in health care access for children. In addition, there were improvements in most of the measures of priority health care quality areas identified by the National Quality Strategy, including patient safety, person-centered care, effective treatment measures, and healthy living. However, the report found persistent disparities in the access to and quality of care available to racial and ethnic minority and low-income households. Though some disparities were reduced or eliminated (such as for childhood immunization rates), most did not improve, while some even grew larger (such as those related to hospice care and chronic disease management).

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 21), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

BTS Releases Annual Report

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) has released its 2013 Transportation Statistics Annual Report (TSAR), which provides detailed information on the U.S. “transportation system, the system’s performance, its contributions to the economy, and its effects on people and the environment.” The congressionally mandated report provides detailed information and identifies data gaps on the extent of the U.S. transportation system, its physical condition, how it moves people and goods, its performance, transportation economics, transportation safety, the energy and environment, and the state of transportation statistics. The scope of the report is large: the U.S. transportation system is valued at $7.7 trillion and encompasses four million miles of roads, 19,000 airports, 140,000 miles of railroads, 25,000 miles of waterways, and 2 million miles of pipelines.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 21), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

COSSA Washington Update, Volume 34 Issue 6

Featured News

COSSA in Action

Congressional News

Federal Agency & Administration News

Publications & Community Events

Funding Opportunities

Events Calendar

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Posted in Issue 6 (April 7), Update, Volume 34 (2015)