On January 15, President-Elect Biden announced key members of his administration’s science and technology team. Dr. Eric Lander, a life scientist and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, will be nominated to direct the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and to serve as the President’s Science Advisor. This role will also be elevated to Cabinet level for the first time.
Dr. Alondra Nelson, a prominent social scientist and President of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), a COSSA member, will be appointed to a new senior OSTP role: Deputy Director for Science and Society. Although details about the scope of this role are not yet available, it is expected that the new position will be broader and more senior than the role of Assistant Director for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, a position last filled during the Obama Administration.
Other notable members of the science team include Drs. Frances H. Arnold and Maria Zuber, external co-chairs of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST); Kei Koizumi, OSTP Chief of Staff; and Narda Jones, OSTP Legislative Affairs Director. In addition, the transition team announced that Dr. Francis Collins will stay on as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). More details are available on the transition team website.
Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced his departure, effective January 20, eleven months before the end of his term. The announcement comes after whistleblower complaints came to light that Dillingham and senior political appointees were pressuring Census Bureau employees to rush the publication of a potentially “statistically indefensible” data report on noncitizens. Dillingham’s public announcement of his resignation included a response to questions posed by the Department of Commerce Inspector General’s Office regarding the noncitizens report. Dillingham’s announcement also notes that he has respect for President-elect Biden and had prepared, after requests from the Biden transition team, to stay on after the Presidential transition, but “I must do now what I think is best.” Census Bureau Deputy Director Ron Jarmin will again serve as acting director of the Bureau, a position he held for over a year prior to Dillingham’s nomination.
COSSA’s 2021 Social Science Advocacy Day, the only annual, coordinated advocacy day in support of all of the social and behavioral sciences, will take place on April 27, 2021. Social Science Advocacy Day brings together social scientists and other science advocates from across the country to engage with policymakers. Last year, Advocacy Day went virtual, and COSSA will build on that experience in 2021 to give participants the ability to safely engage with their elected officials from home.
Participants will be teamed up with social scientists from their home state to participate in a day of virtual meetings with House and Senate offices to share with them why federal support for social and behavioral science research is so important. COSSA will provide multiple live and on-demand training opportunities and logistical support (including scheduling meetings with Congressional offices and providing an on-call expert to answer your day-of policy questions), as well as polished, up-to-date materials to help. Each team will also have the option of partnering with an experienced government relations professional to guide them through their meetings with Members of Congress and staff. Registration will open soon. Watch for more details in the COSSA Washington Update and on the Advocacy Day webpage.
During the January 14 COSSA Headlines webinar, Drs. Christine Hunter and Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou, two of the co-authors of the recent National Institutes of Health report on COVID-19 Vaccination Communication , shared an overview of the report. They also provided a summary of the report’s recommendations that communities can utilize to ensure that messaging about the entire COVID-19 vaccination process relies on evidence-backed strategies. These are available as a one-page tip sheet. A recording of the webinar and the slides are posted to the COSSA website.
The National Science Foundation has released a solicitation related to its Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF) Big Idea. The solicitation invites proposals for multidisciplinary research investigating the evolving technological, human and societal aspects of work. Researchers from the social, behavioral and economic sciences are asked to collaborate with researchers in computer science, engineering and learning sciences to investigate the potential impacts of technological innovations and disruptions. More information is available in the full solicitation. Proposals are due on March 23, 2021.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a new website for COVID-19 research information, according to a January 19 blog post by NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Mike Lauer. According to Lauer, the website includes key information about the agency’s vaccine and diagnostics programs for COVID-19 as well as searchable information on funded research categorized by state, institution, Congressional district, and other notable fields. The website also includes the latest public-facing information on COVID-19 vaccines and testing, information about participating in clinical trials, and other Federal agency resources on COVID-19. The website is available here.
The American Psychological Association (APA), a COSSA governing member, has announced the selection of Mitchell Prinstein as its new Chief Science Officer. Prinstein, who is slated to transition into the role starting March 1, is the John Van Seters distinguished professor of psychology and neuroscience and assistant dean of Honors Carolina at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, another COSSA member. More information is available in the full press release on the APA website.
On January 6, 2021, the American Statistical Association (ASA) announced the debut episode of a new monthly podcast, Practical Significance. The podcast, hosted by Ron Wasserstein, ASA’s Executive Director, and Donna LaLonde, ASA’s Director of Strategic Initiatives and Outreach, will highlight compelling stories from data science and statistics from within ASA’s membership and promote careers in these disciplines.
The debut episode features Rob Santos, ASA’s President, discussing his previous work at the Urban Institute, and outlining his goals for his tenure leading the association. The podcast can be listened to on the ASA website. The podcast has also been submitted to podcasting platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music pending an approval process.
Happy New Year!
The beginning of a new year, new Congress and new Administration is a busy time under “normal” circumstances. However, as our battle with the COVID-19 pandemic continues and, hopefully, we inch toward some semblance of pre-pandemic life in 2021, we are forced to prioritize what is most important. At COSSA, the crises of the past year have underscored for us the critical importance of our work and mission: “To promote the value of social and behavioral science research to policymakers and the public with the goal of enhancing federal support.” Our efforts over the past year aimed to tell the story of how social and behavioral science can and is helping to address society’s greatest challenges, from the public health crisis to racial injustice, and many others.
With our eyes focused on the future, last month COSSA developed and transmitted a comprehensive report to the incoming Biden-Harris Administration detailing steps that can be taken to support social and behavioral science research and—more importantly—to utilize insights from our sciences to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges confronting our nation. See the article below for details on our recommendations.
Just as we plan our path forward, it is helpful to reflect on where we have been. COSSA is celebrating its 40th birthday in 2021. As part of our look back, we will feature articles from past COSSA Washington Updates throughout the year. This week’s archived article, 107th Congress Opens, Awaits New Administration, dates back to January 15, 2001. I think you will find it interesting—and perhaps sobering—to extent to which we continue to tackle similar challenges twenty years later.
Finally, I want to thank all of you for supporting COSSA these last 40 years, and especially this past year. We are strongest as a community; COSSA could not do what we do without this community.
Warmest wishes for a safe, healthy and happy 2021.
In December, COSSA transmitted a report to the Biden transition team, Putting Social and Behavioral Science to Work for America: 10 Recommendations to the Biden Administration. The report outlines tangible actions the incoming Administration can take to support the U.S. research enterprise and use social science research in support of evidence-based policy making across three themes: (1) Restore Trust in Science and Government Data, (2) Champion Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Science; and (3) Expand the Use of Social and Behavioral Science and Data in Decision-Making. The full document is available on COSSA’s website.