Background on COSSA

For 29 years now, COSSA has advocated for the social and behavioral sciences on Capitol Hill, the White House, and the Federal Agencies.  COSSA has brought attention to and more federal funding for these sciences.  COSSA has also acted as a bridge between the academic research community and the Washington policymaking community.

Major Accomplishments:

COSSA’s appropriations advocacy has helped increase federal resources for Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) research to almost $4 billion in 2009, up from under $1 billion in 1981.

COSSA has led and continues to lead coalitions that have included groups from the SBE sciences as well as the natural and physical sciences, engineering, higher education, and industrial groups. These have included the Coalition for National Science Funding, the Coalition to Protect Research, and the Coalition for the Advancement of Health Through Behavioral and Social Science Research.

COSSA leads efforts to enhance diversity in science.  A retreat held in February 2008 that included participants from all the sciences led to a report, a briefing on Capitol Hill in 2009, and further activities in 2010.
COSSA successfully advocated for and led efforts to enhance the role of the social and behavioral science in the nation’s science policy agenda.  These included: 

  1. The formation of the Social, Behavioral, and Economic (SBE) Sciences Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF), 1990-91;  
  2. The creation of an Assistant Director position for these sciences at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, 1991; and
  3. The establishment of the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (OBSSR) at the National Institute of Health (NIH), 1993-95.

COSSA has served as an important defender of the social and behavioral sciences against attacks from Congress and other sources.  It has successfully:

  1. Defeated an Early Attempt to Eliminate National Science Foundation Support for the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 1981;
  2. Thwarted the House Science Committee Chairman’s attempt to eliminate the SBE Directorate, 1995-96;
  3. Mobilized support to defeat multiple threats to Peer Review at NIH and NSF;
  4. Defeated another attempt, this time by the Senate, to eliminate the SBE directorate, 2005-2006; 
  5. Organized and led the opposition to a Senator’s attempt to eliminate NSF’s Political Science program, 2009.

COSSA has also presented the results of social and behavioral science research to policymakers in Congress and the Executive branches of government.  Speakers have included top researchers and practitioners.  The topics dealt with issues in the immediate public policy arena, while others were prescient in their discussions of issues that soon became major policy issues.  They included:

Detecting Deception, Risk and Crisis Communication, Protecting Privacy,  Transforming the Middle East, Democratic Transformations, Growing Old in an Aging America, Obesity: What Can be Done Now?,  The Mechanics of Election Reform, Living Longer, Living Well, Enhancing Educational Performance, Controlling Violence in America, Rural and Community Prosperity, The Genetic Revolution and the Meaning of Life,  Language and Learning, Is Welfare Reform Working,  Information Technology and Social Change, Fostering Resilience in Kids, Why Do People Pay Taxes, High-Tech Maps, Education and Economic Competitiveness Abroad, Unemployment and Stress.

In 2001, to celebrate its 20th Anniversary, COSSA published:  Fostering Human Progress:  Social and Behavioral Science Research Contributions to Public Policy.

Member Benefits/Resources

COSSA serves as a convener for discussions of policies and activities affecting professional and scientific societies that allow for professional networking among the leaders in the social and behavioral science community.

Members receive COSSA’s highly regarded electronic biweekly newsletter that covers science policy news that affects social and behavioral scientists.  A special issue describes and analyzes the President’s proposed budgets for over 50 federal agencies that provide support for research in these sciences.

Members receive an invitation to the COSSA Annual meeting held each fall.  Speakers have included White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Directors and presidential science advisers, directors of NSF and NIH, members of Congress, leaders of other key federal agencies, and social and behavioral scientists in key policy positions.

COSSA’s Executive Director and Deputy Director have over 45 years of Washington, DC experience; 27 and 15 with COSSA respectively.  They are viewed as leaders in the science policy community through their service in leadership positions in many groups that engage in advocacy for science.


The social and behavioral science community has gained immeasurably and will continue to prosper from collective action led and coordinated by COSSA.   As one supporter once wrote us:  “My favorite words in the November 21 issue of COSSA WASHINGTON UPDATE are:  ‘after much urging from COSSA, the Subcommittee held a hearing.’ They demonstrate how grateful we should all be to COSSA, which continues so faithfully to the never-ending task of raising the social science flag in an often indifferent world."

How to Join COSSA

COSSA has four categories of Membership:

Governing Members:  Governing membership in COSSA is intended for associations in the social and behavioral sciences that are comprehensive in scope, are membership societies that represent research scholars, have rotating leadership, and are 501(c)(3) corporations. 
Comprehensive associations have all of the following characteristics:

  1. They are a national association for the discipline or field;
  2. They represent a relatively large number of the professional scholars in their discipline or field directly or indirectly through institutional memberships) as measured by membership, meeting size, or similar indicators; and
  3. They have the resources to act in support of COSSA’s goals and initiatives.

New Governing Members must be voted in by the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of the associations constituting the membership at the time of invitation.
Governing Members are entitled to two seats on the COSSA Board of Directors, which meets once a year, and one seat on the COSSA Executive Committee, which meets three times a year. Dues for governing members are decided by the Executive Committee and calculated according to the Fair Share Dues Principle, which takes each Governing Members’ total individual members and multiplies by a number (currently $2.27).

Non-Governing Members:   Other organizations interested in supporting the organization may join in one of the following categories:
Membership Organizations – those membership organizations with social/behavioral scientists as members who do not meet the criteria for Governing Member;
Colleges and Universities; or
Research Centers and Institutes – organizations, both on-campus and off-campus, who conduct or use research in the social sciences. 
Non-Governing Members shall not be entitled to vote or to exercise any other powers or rights conferred upon Governing Members.
Dues for Non-Governing Members range from $450 for small Membership Organizations and Research Centers to $3,900 for Universities that receive large amounts of federal funds for social and behavioral research.

Those interested in supporting COSSA’s activities in advancing attention to and federal funding for the social and behavioral sciences by joining should contact:  Howard Silver at