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.
COSSA members are invited to register for the monthly Headlines webchat on Thursday, January 14 at 2:00 pm Eastern Time. The COSSA team will break down the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month, followed by a deep dive discussion on COSSA’s recommendations to the Biden Administration as well as COSSA’s legislative priorities for the coming year. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.
In celebration of COSSA’s 40th anniversary, we are diving into the decades of Washington Update archives to share articles from years past that resonate with today’s news.
When we last left you, the country was waiting for the Supreme Court to decide the presidential election and the appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2001 remained incomplete. In the intervening month, George W. Bush began putting his administration together, and all 13 FY 2001 spending bills finally became law, 21 Continuing Resolutions later and nearly three months into the fiscal year[…]
The 107th Congress opened for business on January 3. Two major situations needed working out. With a net gain of four seats by the Democrats in the election, the Senate ended up divided 50-50. As Vice-President Gore remains in office until January 20, the Democrats are the majority for 17 days. Congressional leaders agreed that Democratic Senators would chair the committees during that period, including a number of hearings on Bush cabinet nominees. Following the inauguration of President-elect Bush and Vice-President-elect Cheney on January 20, the Republicans will have the tie-breaking vote. Republicans will take over as committee leaders, but Democrats fought for and received equal committee representation and staff allotments. Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) will be allowed to break ties in committee votes, allowing, for example, cabinet nominations to move to the Senate floor.
Read more from this issue.
As previously reported, before adjourning for the year Congress passed a combined appropriations and coronavirus aid package that provides much needed pandemic relief and will fund the government through the end of fiscal year (FY) 2021 (September 30, 2021). Following several days of uncertainty, President Trump signed the package into law on December 27.
COSSA’s full analysis of the final FY 2021 funding bills for federal agencies and programs important to the social and behavioral science research community is now available here.
Attention now turns to the 117th Congress which convened on January 3. Lawmakers have begun the process of organizing and making Committee assignments ahead of President-Elect Biden’s inauguration on January 20, even as control of the Senate is not yet decided. Stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage for the latest developments.
On January 5, the House Science, Space, and Technology (SST) Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act (H.R. 144), legislation that would create a new postdoctoral fellowship program at the National Science Foundation to support early-career researchers whose opportunities have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnson and Lucas, who had previously introduced the legislation in the previous Congress, have stated that the goal of the legislation is to prevent the loss of research talent due to any economic disruptions that may have occurred due to the public health emergency. The bill’s text is available on the SST Committee website.
On December 17, 2020, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report reviewing the policies at five major federal research agencies intended to secure federally funded research from foreign interference. The five agencies under review, the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Energy (DOE), National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and National Science Foundation (NSF), were evaluated on their existing policies requiring researchers to disclose foreign conflicts of interest – including non-financial conflicts of interest such as honorary appointments – and their procedures for addressing failures to disclose these conflicts of interest.
Findings from the report showed that most agencies have taken some actions to improve research security, although noticeable gaps existed in the disclosure policies of non-financial conflicts of interest and the disciplinary procedures for failure to disclose conflicts of interest. The report makes nine recommendations to federal agencies to improve research security policies. Each of the agencies receiving recommendations agreed with GAO’s assessment except for NSF, which neither agreed nor disagreed but still identified actions it would take to address the recommendations.
The recommendations are:
- The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) should issue pending guidance and expedite the guidance process for research security issues.
- DOD should develop an agency-wide policy on conflicts of interest for grants.
- DOD should document the procedure to address failures to disclose conflicts of interests.
- DOE should develop an agency-wide policy on conflicts of interest for grants.
- DOE should document the procedure to address failures to disclose conflicts of interests.
- NIH should update their policies to include a definition of non-financial conflicts of interest.
- NASA should update their policies to include a definition of non-financial conflicts of interest.
- NASA should document the procedure to address failures to disclose conflicts of interests.
- NSF should update their policies to include a definition of non-financial conflicts of interest.
COSSA released two HOT TOPIC pieces in January 2020 and October 2020 providing detailed summaries of recent developments in research security policies. The GAO report is available in full on the GAO website.
The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released a Notice of Special Interest announcing a new funding opportunity for research on hesitancy to participate in vaccines among populations that experience health disparities. The notice seeks submissions on a variety of social and behavioral research questions including evaluating strategies to increase vaccination rates among target communities and methods to address barriers of receiving vaccines among health disparate communities, especially those with a higher risk of experiencing vaccine hesitancy. The first available due date for applications is February 5, 2021, with the notice expiring on January 8, 2022. More information is available on the NIH website.
The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is accepting nominations for a social or behavioral scientist to deliver the keynote address at the Matilda White Riley Behavioral and Social Science Honors on May 5, 2021. The Matilda White Riley Honors are an annual event recognizing transformative work in the fields of social and behavioral science along with early-career researchers. This year is the second time the event will be hosted virtually. Nominees should have a research career that has “advanced behavioral and social scientific knowledge in areas within NIH’s mission and Dr. White Riley’s vision.” More information is available on the OBSSR website. Nominations may be emailed to Erica Spotts by January 29, 2021.
In December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the appointment of Dr. Carrie Castille as the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Department’s extramural research agency. Dr. Castille has worked on Farm Production and Conservation as well as Rural Development within USDA and previously served as an Assistant Professor of Agriculture at Louisiana State University. Dr. Castille’s six-year term began on January 4, 2021. She succeeds Acting Director Parag Chitnis, who led the agency following J. Scott Angle’s departure in July 2020, two years into his six-year term.