On April 27, more than 60 social and behavioral scientists are participating in COSSA’s seventh annual Social Science Advocacy Day, meeting virtually with Members of Congress and their staff about the many ways social and behavioral science can help the nation recover from the pandemic and tackle the other major challenges it faces. Advocates from 21 states will conduct approximately 80 meetings with Congressional offices. They are equipped with materials that help to explain the unique contributions the social and behavioral sciences make to recovery and to address other pressing national issues; these factsheets are available on COSSA’s Advocacy Resources page. You can help amplify this message by responding to COSSA’s Action Alert on social science and the COVID-19 crisis.
COSSA is particularly grateful to the event’s sponsors, who made this year’s virtual event possible. Sincere thanks to the American Anthropological Association, American Educational Research Association, American Political Science Association, American Psychological Association, American Sociological Association, Boston University, Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Midwest Political Science Association, National Communication Association, Ohio State University, Penn State Social Science Research Institute, Population Association of America, SAGE Publishing, Society for Personality and Social Psychology, University of Arizona, University of California, Irvine School of Social Sciences, and Wiley.
This month, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees held hearings to address the Biden Administration’s proposed budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in fiscal year (FY) 2022. In addition to the budget, both hearings addressed the possibility of significant funding increases for the agency through a new technology directorate as proposed in the Endless Frontiers Act (S. 1260) (see related article). NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan was the sole witness at both hearings, voicing strong support for the Biden Administration’s proposed increases to the NSF budget.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) held its hearing overseen by Subcommittee Chair Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) on April 13. Both Shaheen and Moran spoke highly of the mission of NSF and seemed open to budget increases for the agency as proposed in the Endless Frontiers Act. However, despite agreement that more funding for research was necessary, members of both parties expressed that they wanted more details before throwing full support behind the increase. Other topics discussed during the hearing were global scientific competitiveness, particularly with China, research security, NSF’s EPSCoR program, funding levels for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and increasing diversity in the scientific workforce. The hearing recording is available on the Senate CJS Subcommittee website.
The House Appropriations CJS Subcommittee held its hearing overseen by Subcommittee Chair Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Ranking Member Robert Aderholt (R-AL) on April 14. Like the Senate hearing, members of both parties seemed generally supportive of NSF yet wanted more specifics, with some members of the minority expressing concern of the size of the budget increase. Other issues discussed during the hearing were cybersecurity and its role in research security, investments towards diversity in the scientific workforce, encouraging STEM education and training, and NSF’s role in addressing greater societal challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change. The hearing recording is available on the House CJS Subcommittee website.
On April 20, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (SST) reintroduced the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act (H.R. 2695), bipartisan legislation that would expand research on the causes and consequences of sexual harassment in the STEM workforce as well as direct data to influence policy to reduce the negative impacts of sexual harassment. COSSA has been an endorser of the legislation since 2018 when it was first introduced (see previous coverage for more details). More information is available in a press release available on the SST website.
The Senate has directed its attention towards competition with China as of late, resulting in activities focusing on research security as an extension of U.S.-China policy. On April 15, the Strategic Competition Act of 2021 (S. 1169) was introduced in the Senate by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Jim Risch (R-ID), the Chairman and Ranking Member respectively of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The bipartisan bill includes a long list of measures related to competition with China, including issues related to the security of the U.S. research enterprise. One section of the bill controversially increases oversight at academic institutions on foreign gifts (which may include research grants) by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), effectively giving CFIUS the power to suspend or cancel foreign-granted activities at academic institutions if they are deemed harmful to national security concerns. As the bill is still a work in progress, COSSA will monitor the legislation for future updates.
In addition to this legislation, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on April 22 addressing research security in the biomedical research enterprise, especially related to global scientific competition with China. Witnesses included Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Michael Lauer, Acting Director of the Office of National Security at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Lisa Aguirre, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations at HHS Gary Cantrell, and Acting Director of Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Candice Wright. The Committee members, led by Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC), all expressed deep concern with the potential threat of espionage and cyberattacks at research institutions and inquired how HHS and NIH are combatting espionage in the research enterprise, especially concerning foreign gift reporting and data transfer threats at U.S. universities. A recording of the hearing is available on the HELP Committee website.
Over the past several weeks, Congressional Committees have held several hearings to discuss mental and behavioral health care, including mental health parity and emergency response to mental health crises. On April 15, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on “Meeting the Moment: Improving Access to Behavioral and Mental Health Care.” The Subcommittee heard testimony from Chief of Psychology in the Public Interest at the American Psychological Association (APA) Brian Smedley, Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Christine Moutier, Senior Vice President of Health Policy at The ERISA Industry Committee James Gelfand, and Founder of Psych-Appeal Meiram Bendat. Witnesses raised several issues with previous legislation such as the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) and argued for stronger federal enforcement, increased use of telehealth, and the encouragement of interstate mental health licensing. The Subcommittee also discussed the need for more mental health professionals across the country, briefly asking witnesses what Congress can do to encourage and aid students through their education and training. When discussing mental health and policing, Dr. Smedley mentioned the fact that state employee health plans can opt-out of MHPAEA protections for essential workers such as teachers, firefighters, and police. The House hearing can be viewed here on the Committee website.
On April 23, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism held a hearing on “Behavioral Health and Policing: Interactions and Solutions.” The Subcommittee heard testimony from the Commander of the Education & Training Section of the Baltimore Police Department Martin Bartness, Co-Director of The Mental Health Strategic Impact Initiative Keris Jän Myrick, Outreach Manager of Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) Ebony Morgan, Executive Director at the Technical Assistance Collaborative Kevin Martone, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute Rafael Mangual, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, and wife of a fallen officer, Terri O’Connor. The Subcommittee generally acknowledged the faults with the current mental health care system and addressed topics such as the implementation of national mental health crisis response teams and some successful examples such as the CAHOOTS program. The Senate hearing can be viewed here on the Committee website.
This article was contributed by COSSA’s spring intern, Nicholas Lynn.
The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) has announced that it is participating in the Trans-Atlantic Platform Call for Proposals: Recovery, Renewal, and Resilience in a Post-Pandemic World (T-AP RRR). T-AP RRR is a grant competition that will support international collaborative research projects that address gaps in our understanding of the complex and dynamic societal effects of COVID-19. Proposals are asked to address one or more of the following challenges: reducing inequalities and vulnerabilities; building a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable society; fostering democratic governance and participation; advancing responsible and inclusive digital innovation; and/or ensuring effective and accurate communication and media. In addition, collaborative research teams must include researchers based in at least three participating countries and include partners from both sides of the Atlantic. More information is available in the Dear Colleague Letter. Submissions are due by July 12.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a request for information (RFI) on improving the science of the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program (see COSSA’s previous coverage). NIH is interested in input from the external community on topics including (but not limited to) enhancing the program’s study origins of child health outcomes originating prior to conception, as well as more general strategies for maintaining scientific value while reducing the burden of primary data collection on participants and staff, addressing public health emergencies, enhancing recruitment and retention of diverse populations, and promoting diversity of the workforce related to child health. NIH will hold a webinar on May 6 to provide additional information on the RFI. Comments will be accepted through May 25. More information is available on the NIH website.
On April 26, the Census Bureau released the first data from the 2020 Census, including each state’s apportionment population counts (used to allocate seats to the U.S. House of Representatives and electoral college votes), resident population accounts, and overseas population counts. The release of the Constitutionally-required information was delayed due to the operational challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the additional time needed to correct duplicate and incomplete responses. Overall, seven Congressional seats will shift as a result of the 2020 Census. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia will each lose one Congressional seat, while Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Montana, and North Carolina will each gain one seat. Texas will gain two Congressional seats.
More detailed data on the populations of smaller geographic areas that states will use to redraw their individual Congressional districts is expected to be released in August. The next release will also include more detailed demographic information on race, ethnicity, age, and gender. As states await the publication of this information, several lawsuits are progressing through the courts attempting to force the Bureau to release the data earlier and to prevent it from adopting differential privacy techniques to keep individuals’ data anonymous. Stay tuned to all of COSSA’s 2020 Census coverage here.