Lawmakers Break for Memorial Day Recess with Packed June Agenda in the Wings

When the Senate returns next week, lawmakers will look to move the fiscal year (FY) 2021 National Defenses Authorization Act (NDAA), which, like annual appropriations bills, is seen as “must pass” legislation as its sets annual spending levels for the Department of Defense. The NDAA is an especially important piece of legislation to watch this year given that, as one of few annual “must pass” bills, it is viewed as a potential vehicle for other, sometimes unrelated policy proposals (see the article on the Endless Frontiers Act).

Work also continues on the FY 2021 appropriations bills. Despite the pandemic, lawmakers are hoping to introduce and possibly pass some of the bills out of Committee in June. However, with the next COVID-19 emergency package still in the mix, final enactment of FY 2021 appropriations bills appears a ways off. Still, COSSA and other advocates continue to press on Congress to provide the highest possible funding levels for federal science agencies (see related article on FY 2021 testimony). You can follow COSSA’s coverage off FY 2021 funding here.

Also expected in the coming weeks is Senate consideration of Sethuraman Panchanathan to be the next Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Panchanathan, who was nominated by President Trump in December 2019, will be among several nominations before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on June 3.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 26), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

New Proposal Would Rename NSF, Create New Technology Directorate

On May 21, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Endless Frontier Act (S. 3832). A counterpart bill (H.R. 6978) was also introduced in the House by Representatives Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI). The legislation proposes the establishment of a new Technology Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF), which would be renamed the National Science and Technology Foundation (NSTF). While housed within NSF/NSTF, a basic science agency, the overarching goal of the legislation is to infuse funding—$100 billion over five years—specifically for research and development in 10 technology areas of global strategic significance. The 10 areas include: (1) artificial intelligence and machine learning (2) high performance computing, semiconductors, and advanced computer hardware (3) quantum computing and information systems (4) robotics, automation, and advanced manufacturing (5) natural or anthropogenic disaster prevention (6) advanced communications technology (7) biotechnology, genomics, and synthetic biology (8) cybersecurity, data storage and data management technologies (9) advanced energy (10) materials science, engineering, and exploration relevant to other key technology areas. The 10 areas would be revisited every 4 years.

Such a focus on technology transfer would be a major departure for NSF, which since its founding has focused on supporting fundamental research across all scientific disciplines and fields. The bill’s sponsors contend that the agencies’ other activities would be left untouched by the legislation. Still, considering the bill’s authorization level for these new technology activities is nearly triple the NSF’s current budget, one could surmise that the proposal would mark a major shift in priority for the 70-year-old agency.

While, as noted earlier, this and other legislation could be attached to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the bill would first need to work its way through the Senate oversight committees as well as those in the House, which has been working to develop its own, yet-to-be-introduced NSF reauthorization legislation.  COSSA will continue to report on this and other NSF authorizing bills in the months ahead.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 26), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

NIMH Announces New Strategic Plan, Approves Concept Clearances

During a public meeting on May 19, the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), the advisory body to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), released a new Strategic Plan for Research for the Institute. The strategic plan outlines NIMH’s research goals and intended priorities for the next five fiscal years, and cites four high-level goals to guide the Institute:

  • Define the Brain Mechanisms Underlying Complex Behaviors
  • Examine Mental Illness Trajectories Across the Lifespan
  • Strive for Prevention and Cures
  • Strengthen the Public Health Impact of NIMH-Supported Research

In addition to the strategic plan announcement, NAMHC heard and approved several concept clearances for potential new research, including some that would incorporate social and behavioral science. Summaries of these concept clearances and a recording of the NAMHC meeting will be available on the NIH website shortly.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 26), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

NIH to Host Matilda White Riley Honors Virtually on June 8

On June 8, the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will host the annual Matilda White Riley Behavioral and Social Sciences Honors in a virtual capacity. The public event will feature a lecture from the 2020 Matilda White Riley Honors awardee, Toni Antonucci, Program Director and Research Professor in the Life Course Development Program at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. It will also recognize the accomplishments of several early stage investigators and their research in the behavioral and social sciences. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of OBSSR and the first year the Matilda White Riley Honors will be hosted virtually.

Registration and more information about the Matilda White Riley Honors is available on the OBSSR website.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 26), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

COSSA Washington Update, Volume 39 Issue 10

Featured News

COSSA in Action

Federal Agency & Administration News

Community News & Reports

Events Calendar

Posted in Issue 10 (May 12), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

COSSA Advocates Tell Congress to Use Social Science to Fight COVID-19

On April 28, about 40 social and behavioral scientists and stakeholders participated in COSSA’s sixth annual Social Science Advocacy Day, meeting virtually with Members of Congress and their staff about the many ways social and behavioral science is helping to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Advocates representing 16 states participated, holding 58 individual meeting with Congressional offices. Materials used to help explain the unique contributions the social and behavioral sciences make to fighting COVID-19 and to address other pressing national issues 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 chose to continue to support Advocacy Day without an in-person component. Sincere thanks to the American Anthropological Association, American Educational Research Association, American Evaluation Association, American Psychological Association, American Society of Criminology, American Sociological Association, Association of American Universities, Boston University, Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, National Communication Association, Penn state Social Science Research Institute, Population Association of America, Princeton University, SAGE Publishing, Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and Society for Research and Child Development.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 12), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Congress Remains Focused on COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, Congress continues to prioritize attention to combatting the disease and addressing the resulting economic repercussions. As lawmakers argue about the contents of another supplemental appropriations bill, a pair of Dear Colleague Letters (DCL) have been circulated in the House and Senate in support of $26 billion for federal research agencies in the next COVID-19 package. The House letter, sponsored by Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI), garnered 178 signatories and the Senate letter, sponsored by Ed Markey (D-MA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), had 33 signatories. The timeline for future supplemental bills is still unclear.

On May 6, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) held a hearing addressing the ongoing COVID-19 response. The Subcommittee heard testimony from President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tom Frieden, and Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Caitlin Rivers. Members of the Subcommittee and the witnesses discussed a variety of issues related to the pandemic, including the best methods for reopening parts of the economy, the role of contact tracing in identifying at-risk individuals, best public health practices for rural communities, and the production timeline of a vaccine and other medical supplies. A major topic of discussion was the possibility of the Appropriations Committee to initiate a Health Defense Operations (HDO) account intended to address immediate public health crises such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. This account would be structured similarly to the often-controversial Department of Defense’s Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account and would allow much greater flexibility in funding public health initiatives without being affected by budget caps or competing with other discretionary accounts. A recording of the hearing and the witnesses’ testimonies are available on the Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 12), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

NSF, National Academies Launch Network to Connect Social Scientists to COVID-19 Policymakers

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have formed the Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) to connect social and behavioral science researchers with decision-makers who are leading the response to COVID-19. SEAN will respond to the most pressing social, behavioral, and economic questions that are being asked by federal, state, and local officials by working with appropriate experts to quickly provide actionable answers. The network will be overseen by NASEM’s Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats and an executive committee co-chaired by Robert Groves of Georgetown University and Mary T. Bassett of Harvard University. More information is available in the press release announcing the network’s formation. One of the first public activities under the new network is the creation of a weekly archive of public opinion survey data and reports related to COVID-19. COSSA will continue to report on SEAN’s activities as more information becomes available.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 12), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Golden Goose Award Seeks Nominations Related to COVID-19 Research

The Golden Goose Award, which typically recognizes federally funded research that may initially sound odd, obscure, or serendipitous, but ends up having a major impact on society, is planning to use its 2020 Awards to highlight federally funded research that has had a significant and demonstrable impact in responding to COVID-19. More information on nomination criteria is available on the Golden Goose website. The deadline for nominations is May 22, 2020.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 12), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

May’s Headlines Webchat to Feature a Deep Dive Conversation with Epidemiologist Natalie Dean

COSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly Headlines webchat on Thursday May 14. The COSSA team will break down the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer your questions. This month’s deep dive will feature a conversation with University of Florida epidemiologist Natalie Dean, who will answer your questions about studying a pandemic. Ron Wasserstein, Executive Director of the American Statistical Association, will moderate the discussion. Participants may submit questions in advance by emailing Julia Milton (jmilton@cossa.org). Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 12), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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