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.