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House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Scientific Integrity at Federal Agencies

On July 17, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hosted a joint subcommittee hearing on scientific integrity in federal agencies. The hearing, which was hosted by the Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, included discussion of current and past issues of scientific integrity in the federal government and H.R. 1709, the Scientific Integrity Act. The Scientific Integrity Act, introduced by Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY), directs federal agencies that fund or direct public science to establish and maintain clear scientific integrity principles and formalizes existing scientific integrity policies. The bill also clarifies that science within the federal government should determine policy without political, ideological, or financial conflicts of interest.

Witnesses included John Neumann, the Managing Director of Science and Technology Assessment at the Government Accountability Office (GAO); Michael Halpern, the Deputy Director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists; Dr. Roger Pielke, a professor in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado; and Joel Clement of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. Both Democrat and Republican members of the committee emphasized the importance of scientific integrity in their statements, but recommended different approaches moving forward; Democrats recommended the committee advance the Scientific Integrity Act, while Republicans argued that the issue of scientific integrity was being politicized and science advice was being inappropriately conflated with policy recommendations.

A recording of the hearing and statements from committee leadership and witnesses can be found on the committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 23), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Congress and White House Strike Budget Deal Before Congress Leaves for Recess

As Congress prepares to leave for its annual August recess, Congressional leaders have struck a deal with the White House to raise the budget caps and debt ceiling for the coming fiscal years. The deal will allow for an increase in defense and non-defense discretionary spending, and provide relief from the final two years of automatic budget cuts put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. This deal means that increases are now possible for programs across the government, including research, healthcare, and the upcoming 2020 Census. As COSSA has reported, the House of Representatives is nearly done working on fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations, but the Senate was delaying any spending decisions until a deal was reached to address the limits discretionary spending. The Senate is now expected to start working in haste to draft spending bills after they return from recess. Congress has until the end of September to finish work on FY 2020, pass a continuing resolution, or risk another government shutdown.

COSSA has also released an Action Alert for COSSA Members to communicate directly with their Senators to urge them to support social science research.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 23), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Science Committee Hosts Hearing on Societal and Ethical Implications of Artificial Intelligence

On June 26, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hosted a hearing to examine the societal and ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI). The committee heard testimony from Meredith Whittaker of the AI Now Institute at New York University, Jack Clark of OpenAI, Joy Boulamwini of the Algorithmic Justice League, and Georgia Tourassi of the Health Data Sciences Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Committee Members and witnesses discussed the impact of AI on bias, the changing nature of work due to AI, and the impact of AI on the economy, including the delivery of healthcare. Social science was highlighted multiple times as one of the areas where additional research is most needed. The Science Committee is expected to begin working on bipartisan legislation to support a national strategy on AI in the coming months. A recording of the hearing and copies of witness statements are available on the committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 9), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Nearly Finalizes Appropriations; Senate Movement Uncertain

Before Congress left for its annual Independence Day recess, the House of Representatives got a few steps closer to completing its work on fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations. At the time of this writing, the House has passed ten of its twelve appropriations bills, with only the Homeland Security and Legislative Branch funding bills remaining. The House has passed funding for agencies important for social science including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and Department of Agriculture. Details about the proposed funding for those agencies can be found in COSSA’s full analyses of the Commerce, Justice, Science; Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education; and Agriculture appropriations bills on COSSA’s website.

While the House has finalized nearly all of its appropriations bills, the Senate has signaled that they expect a deal on top-line funding levels or “caps” before beginning work on individual appropriations bills. Congress and the White House have not agreed on final discretionary spending levels for FY 2020, so it is unclear when the Senate Appropriations Committee will start the process of considering FY 2020 bills. As COSSA has reported, discretionary budget caps must be raised if federal agencies and programs are to receive any funding increases in FY 2020. Read COSSA’s full analysis of FY 2020 spending on the COSSA website.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 9), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Science Committee Leadership Finalized; First Bills Introduced

On January 4, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) was elected the chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, after announcing her intention to seek the gavel following the 2018 midterm elections. Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK) was named Ranking Member of the Committee in December. Representatives Johnson and Lucas announced on the first day of the 116th Congress that they had jointly introduced two bills, one to combat sexual harassment in science, and one to integrate energy and water research at the Department of Energy. The two bills, H.R. 36, the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 and H.R. 34, the Energy and Water Research Integration Act of 2019, with their bipartisan co-sponsorship, represent what many in the scientific community hope to be a new era of bipartisanship on the House Science Committee. COSSA has endorsed the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 8), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Republicans Announce Committee Leadership for the 116th Congress

House Republicans have begun to announce committee leadership appointments for the 116th Congress, following the loss of their majority in November’s election. As a result of a historic number of Republican retirements, including nearly half of all committee chairs, and a loss of 40 House seats in the midterm election, there will be many new faces among Republican committee leadership in the new Congress. Notably for social science, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) will serve as the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and Kay Granger (R-TX) will be the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. Lucas has previously served as Vice Chair of the House Science Committee and Granger previously led the powerful Defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

While House Democrats have yet to announce the official roster of committee chairs for the new congress, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) is expected to take the gavel of the House Science Committee (and has already announced her priorities), and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) is expected to lead the House Appropriations committee. Appropriations subcommittee chairs and ranking members have not yet been announced.

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Posted in Issue 24 (December 11), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Rep. Johnson Seeks Science Chairmanship, Announces Priorities for the New Congress

On November 6, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) announced her interest in seeking the chairmanship of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Johnson has served as the Ranking Minority Member of the Science Committee since 2010, and, should she be elected chair—which is expected—she will become the first woman and the first person of color to lead the committee. In her announcement she included three priorities for the committee in the coming year, including: ensuring the United States remains the global leader in innovation, addressing the challenge of climate change, and restoring the “credibility of the Science Committee as a place where science is respected and recognized as a crucial input to good policymaking.” Committee assignments will come in the early months of 2019; COSSA will report on the details as they become available.

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Posted in Issue 23 (November 27), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Democrats Take Control of the House in Midterm Elections; Congress Returns for Lame Duck Session

Congress returns to Washington this week for the first time since early October. Lawmakers are returning to what many expected to be the outcome of the midterm elections, with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives and Republicans maintaining control of the Senate.

The Senate margin currently stands at 51 Republicans and 46 Democrats, with a run-off election scheduled in Mississippi, a recount of votes in Florida, and a race in Arizona still too close to call. The contests in Florida and Arizona are considered toss-ups while the Mississippi race is expected to stay in Republican hands. As many expected, the Democrats will have a strong majority in the House of Representatives come January with a current majority of 227 members to the Republican’s 198, with nearly a dozen races still too close to call. At this time, the House Democrats have gained 32 seats and the House Republicans have lost the same amount. Notable losses include several Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee, including Representative John Culberson (R-TX), Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science; Kevin Yoder (R-KS); David Young (R-IA); and Scott Taylor (R-VA). Several Republican members of the House Science Committee also lost their reelection bids, including Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Steve Knight (R-CA). Taken with the retirement of Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX), this will result in an overhaul of the Republican roster on the Science Committee in the coming Congress. It will be some time before committee assignments for the 116th Congress will be made.

At the top of the agenda for the next few weeks is finalizing the remaining fiscal year (FY) 2019 spending bills. About half of the spending bills have been signed into law, but funding for the National Science Foundation, Census Bureau, Department of Agriculture, and many other agencies is still not complete. The current continuing resolution ends on December 7 with Republicans anxious to complete the spending bills before Democrats take control of the House. Read about the state of play for FY 2019 appropriations here.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 13), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

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