Introduction | Congress and the Policy-Making Process | Timing Your Advocacy | Communicating with Congress | Resources
The Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) is a nonprofit advocacy organization working to promote sustainable federal funding for social and behavioral science research and federal policies that positively impact the conduct of research. COSSA (pronounced “COH-sah“) serves as a united voice for a broad, diverse network of organizations, institutions, communities, and stakeholders who care about a successful and vibrant social science research enterprise. COSSA membership is institutional and includes professional and disciplinary associations, scientific societies, research centers and institutes, and U.S. colleges and universities.
This handbook is intended to serve as an introduction for COSSA members to the federal government and the policymaking process and provide some of the basics and best practices for advocating for the social and behavioral sciences.
COSSA’s advocacy and outreach
COSSA monitors the full range of federal issues impacting the social and behavioral science community as a whole, from funding to new research policies and directives.
COSSA advocates during the appropriations process for sustained federal support for social and behavioral science research across the federal agencies. We also advocate for authorizing and other legislation that reflects the importance of these sciences. Within the federal agencies and administration, COSSA weighs in on regulatory and policy issues by submitting comments to and otherwise engaging with agency officials to promote our science.
We strive to both proactively educate the government and the public about the value of social and behavioral science research and to defend these sciences against baseless attacks and criticism.
For matters of particular significance to the COSSA community, we issue action alerts to urge our advocates to write to their Members of Congress. We also keep our members informed about emerging issues so they may take action at any time.
Why we need your help
COSSA works hard every day to communicate the importance of social and behavioral science research to policy makers. But ultimately, the most powerful stories come from people who can speak from experience about what it is like to apply for a federal grant, conduct research, or watch as their findings reach (or fail to reach) a broader audience.
Educating policy makers about social and behavioral science research—and its contributions to sound public policy—is especially important because these sciences are not always well understood on the Hill and even in the federal agencies.
In a survey by the Congressional Management Foundation, 97 percent of Congressional staff said that constituent visits have “some” or “a lot” of influence on an undecided Member—more than any other strategy for communicating with Congress. And social and behavioral scientists are not just any constituents—they bring invaluable expertise on a wealth of important issues facing our nation.
COSSA’s advocacy and outreach partners
We believe that our message will go further if it comes from many voices. We work closely with the broad community of organizations and individuals who care deeply about the future of the social and behavioral sciences. First and most important are our members, who provide us with expertise and direction on the issues facing their individual disciplines and organizations.
We also work as part of numerous coalitions that advocate for specific issues or federal agencies ranging from human rights to the National Science Foundation. COSSA helps to lead three coalitions—the Coalition to Promote Research (CPR), the Coalition for the Advancement for Health Through Behavioral and Social Science Research (CAHT-BSSR), and the Coalition to Enhance Diversity in Science (CEDS)—and is a member of many others.
COSSA collaborates with other organizations, like the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, to address issues that affect the science community as a whole.
Lastly, we work directly with the federal agencies and Congressional colleagues that support social and behavioral science research.