Blog Archives

COSSA Endorses Bipartisan Bill to Extend Census Deadline

COSSA joined over 200 organizations in endorsing a new bipartisan bill that would extend the statutory deadlines for the 2020 Census and require the Census Bureau to continue its enumeration operation through October 31. As previously reported, the Department of Commerce announced plans to end counting activities for the 2020 Census a month ahead of its originally planned schedule, leading to concern that the resulting data will be inaccurate. The 2020 Census Deadline Extensions Act, introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) would require the 2020 Census to stick to its originally planned schedule and gives the Bureau additional time to deliver apportionment and redistricting data. Follow COSSA’s coverage of the 2020 Census here.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 15), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on the Impact of COVID-19 on University Research

On September 10, the House Science Committee’s Research and Technology Subcommittee held a hearing on the Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on University Research. Witnesses included the Vice Presidents for Research from the University of Illinois System, Oakland University in Michigan, and Purdue University, as well as a Carnegie Mellon graduate student in physics. Witnesses and participating Members of Congress praised the Science Committee’s bipartisan proposals to support the university research system through the disruptions caused by COVID-19, including the RISE Act (H.R. 7308) (see previous coverage), which we have discussed before, authorizes $26 billion in emergency relief funding for science agencies to support full-cost extensions of research grant. A newer bipartisan bill was also discussed, the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act (H.R. 8044), which would create a new $250 million fellowship program at the National Science Foundation that would allow high-performing grad students to take their funding with them if they are forced to change schools.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 15), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Fate of FY 2021 Funding and Coronavirus Relief in Limbo as Congress Returns

Lawmakers return from summer recess next week, leaving only 16 working days to act on funding legislation before fiscal year (FY) 2021 begins on October 1. As previously reported, the House passed its version of the FY 2021 appropriations bills in July, while the Senate has yet to release details of its bills. It is a near certainty that FY 2021 will begin under a continuing resolution (CR). Since it is an election year—one with major potential funding consequences—history suggests that a shorter CR will be enacted to keep the government running through the November elections. The next steps after that will depend heavily on the outcome of the election and which party will be controlling the House, Senate and White House beginning in January. Should there be a change in administration and/or party majority in one or both chambers of Congress, it is common for appropriations bills to be tabled until the new year to allow the new party in power to control the process.

What’s more likely to dominate attention in Congress over the next few weeks is the latest attempt to enact emergency funding to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Congressional leaders and White House negotiators made little-to-no progress over the summer, despite promises to broker a deal. As we head into the seventh month of the pandemic with the November election nearing, both parties are feeling the pressure to provide additional relief. Stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage over the coming weeks for the latest details on FY 2021 spending and COVID-19 relief and their impacts on social and behavioral science research.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 1), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Congress Struggling to Reach Agreement on COVID-19 Relief, Potentially Delaying August Recess

Congressional leaders continue to negotiate with the White House on what many suspect could be the final COVID-19 relief bill, and the House, Senate and Trump Administration remain far apart on their preferred approaches. While the House passed a relief bill—the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act—in May, the Senate has only recently introduced its counterpart proposal, the Healthcare, Economic Assistance, Liability, And Schools (HEALS) Act. Though the Senate is scheduled to begin its August recess on Friday August 7, policymakers are reportedly pessimistic about reaching a deal before then. Senate leaders are expected to delay the start of the recess in hopes of reaching a deal the following week. While members of the House have already returned home, Representatives could be called back with 24 hours’ notice to vote on a final package.

The Senate’s coronavirus stimulus package, the HEALS Act, includes supplemental appropriations for federal science agencies, notably $15.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $3.4 billion for the CDC. The House’s HEREOS Act proposed additional funding for NIH ($4.75 billion), CDC ($2.1 billion), and the National Science Foundation ($125 million), among other agencies. Neither bill includes the Research Investments to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act, a bipartisan bill that seeks $26 billion in relief funding to federal science agencies to support non-COVID university-based research that has been impacted by the pandemic.

The Senate HEALS Act does not include language sought by Census stakeholders, and requested by the Administration, to extend the 2020 Census statutorily required deadlines (see related article). The Census Project, of which COSSA is a member, has worked with various partners to craft a sign-on letter urging the Senate to include language that would extend the deadlines by four months. Interested organizations (not individuals) can sign the letter by August 5.

Finally, the Senate COVID package incorporates the Safeguarding American Innovation Act, a bill seeking to address research security concerns, but itself raising concerns within the scientific community about the approach taken (see related article).

Leadership in the House and Senate will continue to work on a COVID-19 compromise over the coming weeks. COVID relief aside, when Congress returns after Labor Day, lawmakers will have fewer than 20 working days to take action on fiscal year (FY) 2021 appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year on September 30, after which lawmakers will head home again in advance of the November elections.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Controversial Research Security Legislation Could Move Forward in COVID-19 Relief Package

The Senate has incorporated the Safeguarding American Innovation Act (S. 3997) into the HEALS Act, the Republican-led Senate version of a new COVID-19 economic relief package (see related article). The Safeguarding American Innovation Act, sponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tom Carper (D-DE), is sweeping legislation that aims to tighten the security of the U.S. research enterprise against competing governments, most notably the Chinese government, by imposing restrictions on collaborating with foreign entities. However, the bill has been criticized by many in the research community for being too restrictive and for potentially discouraging foreign scientists from working in the United States.

Some of the controversial parts of the legislation include:

  • Expanding the authority of the U.S. Department of State to reject visa applications from anyone seen as tied to a hostile foreign government.
  • Imposing criminal penalties, including jail time, for scientists who fail to disclose ties to a foreign government.
  • Requiring international research partners to comply with U.S. scientific norms.
  • Establishing a new research security oversight body at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The bill follows many of the recommendations listed in a 2019 report produced by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), which Portman chairs. The bill has also been signaled to be “a work in progress” by Carper, which may indicate a willingness to amend the legislation before the full Senate vote. Now that the bill is tied directly to the Senate’s COVID-19 package, it could become a bargaining chip in the negotiations currently underway.

Read COSSA’s HOT TOPIC on research security for more information about recent legislation and other research security actions.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Defense Authorization Bill Goes to Conference with Minerva Funding Intact

The House and Senate are set to begin negotiations on the annual authorizing legislation for the Department of Defense (DOD), the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The House passed its bill on July 21, with the Senate following suit on July 23. As previously reported, the bills passed by both chambers included language to prevent the elimination of Defense-wide funding for DOD’s basic social science research program, the Minerva Research Initiative, as has been proposed in the Administration’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2021. The agreement on funding for Minerva in both bills is a positive sign that funding for the program will continue into FY 2021.

Not included in either bill is any version of the Endless Frontier Act (see previous coverage). Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) had introduced it as an amendment to the Senate NDAA, but it was not ultimately brought to the floor.

Conferees have not yet been named, but the NDAA is considered “must-pass” legislation by the end of the fiscal year on September 30. A potential complication to the eventual passage of a conferenced NDAA is the threat of a presidential veto over provisions included in both bills that mandate renaming military bases and facilities named for Confederates. However, both chambers passed their respective bills with more than two-thirds majorities, indicating that a veto of the conferenced bill could be overridden.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2021 Funding Bills

During the week of July 13, the House Appropriations Committee completed its marathon markups of its 12 annual appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2021, making way for consideration by the full House of Representatives; the relevant subcommittees advanced their respective measures the week prior.

Despite the semblance of “regular order,” the outlook for final FY 2021 spending bills is still very much up in the air as lawmakers continue to grapple with pandemic relief negotiations and as the November elections approach. In addition, the House bills—which were written by the Democrats—include several funding and policy provisions that will be non-starters for the Republican-controlled Senate. For example, one area of contention between the parties is whether to use the FY 2021 spending bills to provide additional coronavirus relief (as currently included in the House Labor, HHS, Education bill), or to negotiate such measures separately (which is the position of that subcommittee’s Ranking Republican). Also threatening final passage of the FY 2021 bills is the perennial fight over whether to fund the President’s border wall; the House Homeland Security bill contains no funding for the project.

Complicating things further are the budget caps to which appropriators were forced to adhere when writing the FY 2021 bills. As previously reported, a bipartisan budget agreement was passed in August 2019 providing much needed relief from tight budget caps on discretionary spending for FY 2020 and FY 2021. The deal allowed Congress to increase funding to federal agencies across the FY 2020 appropriations bills; however, for FY 2021, the deal raised the caps by only 0.4 percent, setting this year up at the outset to be a particularly challenging one.

Timing for consideration of the FY 2021 spending bills in the Senate remains unclear. The chamber returned from a two-week recess to face ongoing COVID-19 relief negotiations and must-pass defense authorization legislation.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the House FY 2021 funding bills for federal agencies and programs important to the social and behavioral science research community.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 21), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Budget Committee Holds Hearing on Federal R&D Spending

On July 8, the House Committee on the Budget held a hearing focused on the federal role in research and development (R&D) in fueling American innovation and recovery in light of the effort to combat the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Committee heard testimony from several experts on the research and development enterprise including CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Sudip Parikh, Professor at New York University Paul Romer, President and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness Deborah Wince-Smith, and Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School Willy Shih.

The Committee questioned the witnesses on a variety of topics including the ideal level of federal R&D spending as a percentage of GDP, research on mobilizing the manufacturing sector, the development of graduate students in research careers, the merits of the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (see COSSA’s previous coverage for more details) in assisting the U.S. research enterprise, and the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) order regarding international students at U.S. universities. AAAS CEO Sudip Parikh also lauded the role of social scientists in prescribing policy, noting the importance of data and transparency in that effort. A recording of the hearing and the witnesses’ testimonies are available on the Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 21), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Funding for DOD Social Science Research Restored in House and Senate Defense Authorization Bills

Both the House and Senate’s drafts of the annual authorization bill for the Department of Defense (DOD), the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), include language preventing the elimination of funding for DOD’s basic social science research program, the Minerva Research Initiative, as proposed in the Administration’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2021. Both bills propose a total of $17 million in the Defense-Wide funding line for the Minerva initiative, which if enacted would be a sizeable increase over the $11.4 million the program received in FY 2020. While the Minerva Initiative receives some funding from the Navy and Air Force, Defense-Wide funding accounts for the majority of its budget.

Both bills include language in support of the Minerva Initiative and social science research at the Department of Defense more generally. They contain nearly-identical language asserting that maintaining America’s technological superiority “requires not only investing in physical sciences but also the integration of cross-disciplinary research that explores the social, cultural, behavioral, political, historical, and religious drivers of today’s increasingly complex global security environment.” In addition, both bills would require that DOD report back on how it plans to continue to cultivate the social sciences within the Department.

The Senate NDAA (report) was approved by the Armed Services Committee on June 23. Floor debate began on July 1 and continued until the Senate adjourned for a two-week recess on July 2. The Senate will resume consideration when it returns on July 20. Among the amendments proposed for consideration are a version of Senator Charles Schumer’s (D-NY) Endless Frontier Act, which as previously reported, proposes sweeping structural changes for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Should the amendment pass, it would fall to the conference committee to negotiate whether and in what form the legislation would be included in the final bill.

The House Armed Services Committee approved its version of the bill (Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities mark) on July 1. A timeline for consideration by the full House is unclear, but the NDAA is considered “must-pass” legislation by the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

RISE Act Would Provide Relief Funding for Federally Funded Scientists

On June 24, Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (H.R. 7308), which would authorize $26 billion in relief funding for federal science agencies to support researchers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds could be used to enable graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and Principal Investigators to complete work that was disrupted by COVID-19, or extend the training or employment of researchers on an existing research project for up to two years because of the disruption of the job market. The bill follows a similar Dear Colleague Letter led by DeGette and Upton in April with 180 Members of Congress signing on. A timeline for consideration and potential passage of the bill remains unclear. While it would be a likely candidate for inclusion in a larger COVID-19 aid package, the House is still waiting for the Senate to introduce a counterpart to its previously passed COVID-19 relief bill before it considers a new one.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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