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COSSA Endorses Bill to Combat Sexual Harassment in Science

On October 2, COSSA released a statement in support of H.R. 7031, the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2018. The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ranking Member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, would provide funding to the National Science Foundation to establish a grant program to study the causes and consequences of sexual harassment in the scientific workforce, efficacy of interventions, and methods of remediating the negative impacts of sexual harassment. This legislation would also direct data collection about sexual harassment in science and establish and interagency working group to address this important issue. Read the full statement on COSSA’s website.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 16), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Senate Panel Considers Dillingham Nomination for Census Director

On October 3, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a confirmation hearing to consider the Trump Administration’s nomination of Steven Dillingham for Director of the Census Bureau (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The Bureau has been without a permanent director since June 2017 and is in the middle of a significant ramp-up as it prepares to conduct the 2020 Census. Dillingham’s nomination is relatively uncontroversial, particularly when compared to the more overtly political candidates the Administration is reported to have considered. In his opening statement, Committee Chair Ron Johnson (R-WI) called Dillingham “well-qualified,” and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill indicated after the hearing that she would support his nomination.

During the hearing, Dillingham avoided taking a stance on whether the 2020 Census should include a citizenship question in response to questions from both Republicans and Democrats. He also answered questions about keeping down the costs of the decennial census and strategies for reaching hard-to-count populations. The next step for Dillingham’s nomination is a vote by the full committee, which has not yet been scheduled. Following committee approval, the nomination must be approval by the full U.S. Senate. However, further action will not occur until after the November midterm elections since the Senate is in recess until then.

A recording of the hearing is available on the committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 16), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Trump Signs Labor-HHS Bill/CR, Pushing Remaining FY19 Spending to Dec 7

On September 28, President Trump signed into law a fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding package containing two of twelve appropriations bills, the Defense Appropriations bill and the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations bill. The bill had been passed earlier in the week by the House of Representatives. Of particular interest to the social science community, the Labor-HHS bill contains next year’s final appropriation for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Education (ED), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), among other federal departments and agencies. The passage of the Labor-HHS bill marks the first time in more than 20 years that this bill, which tends to be one of the most divisive among Republicans and Democrats, will be signed into law on time.

The package also includes a continuing resolution (CR) that will keep the rest of the government operating until December 7 (the new fiscal year begins next week on October 1). Congress will return after the November midterm elections and attempt to complete its work on next year’s spending bills. Notably, still pending is the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which is responsible for funding the National Science Foundation and the Census Bureau, among other programs; neither the House or Senate have taken up the bill outside of committee.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the final FY 2019 funding levels for the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Department of Education.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 2), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Congress Makes Progress on Appropriations as Fiscal Year Comes to a Close

Fiscal year (FY) 2019 is coming quickly to an end on September 30, and while Congress has made more progress on appropriations than in recent years, much of the government is likely to be funded under a continuing resolution (CR) after October 1. At the time of this writing, 6 bills have been passed by the full House of Representatives and 9 bills have been passed by the Senate. The 9 Senate-passed bills are now in the process of having differences resolved in conference committees with the House. Notably, neither chamber has passed the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which is responsible for funding the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Census Bureau, among other programs.

Congress is likely to pass three multi-bill packages in the coming weeks, containing some combination of the 9 bills in conference, but likely not in time for the beginning of fiscal year 2019. One of the bill packages, a combination of the Republican-must-pass Defense spending bill and the Democratic-wish-list Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies spending bill includes a CR for the remaining unfunded portions of the government to fund them past the midterm elections. On September 13, the conference committee approved this package of bills, which included a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over their FY 2018 appropriation. Read complete COSSA coverage of FY 2019 appropriations here.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 18), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Senate Committee Seeks Answers from USDA on ERS/NIFA Plans

On September 7, the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue with a list of questions about the Department’s plans to move the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) out of the Washington, DC area and to realign ERS with the Office of the Chief Economist (see COSSA’s previous coverage). In the letter, Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) cite stakeholders’ concerns that the moves will lead to a “sharp loss of knowledgeable staff” and “erode critical partnerships with other federal agencies who are engaged in interdisciplinary research.” The letter asks for more detail from USDA on the motivation and rationale for the decision, the Department’s plans to execute the moves, and the legal authority underlying USDA’s ability to realign ERS. While no bipartisan action has been taken in the House, Democrats have expressed concerns about the proposal, including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and the Democrats on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. A number of concerned stakeholder groups will hold a webinar with former USDA officials on Thursday, September 20.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 18), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

State of Play: FY 2019 Appropriations for Social Science Research

Both chambers of Congress are back in Washington after the Labor Day holiday and have only a few weeks to make progress on the fiscal year (FY) 2019 appropriations bills before adjourning again for the November midterm elections. At the time of this writing, 6 bills have been passed by the full House of Representatives and 9 by the Senate. None have been sent to the President for his signature. FY 2019 begins on October 1, 2018.

Upon returning to work in September, Congress faces a full plate of must-pass spending legislation, not to mention a Supreme Court nomination and several federal agency nominations. Among the countless unknowns surrounding a possible endgame strategy for appropriations is one certainty— the need to pass a stopgap funding measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), to avoid a partial government shutdown come October 1. The length of a likely CR, though, is still up for debate. With the leadership of the House and possibly the Senate up for grabs in the November elections, we could see a CR as short as a few weeks or a few months or stretching into next calendar year in the event either chamber changes partisan control.

COSSA has been reporting on the status of the FY 2019 appropriations bills over the last several months. Read on for a recap of where FY 2019 funding proposals currently stand for federal agencies important to the social science research community.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 4), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Senate HELP Committee Hears Update on NIH Cures Implementation

On August 23, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held an oversight hearing featuring leadership from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The hearing, Prioritizing Cures: Science and Stewardship at the National Institutes of Health, was chaired by HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and included testimony from NIH Director Francis Collins. Dr. Collins was joined by Diana Bianchi, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD); Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); Richard Hodes, National Institute on Aging (NIA); and Norman Sharpless, National Cancer Institute (NCI). A similar hearing was held in the House in July.

 

In his opening statement, Chairman Alexander acknowledged the continued enthusiastic, bipartisan support for NIH, evidenced by the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016 and by substantial budgetary increases provided to the agency over the last four years (see COSSA’s funding analysis for details). He further stated, “It’s hard to think of a major scientific advancement since World War II that has not been supported by federal research funding. But we’re not the only country that’s figured that out. Other countries have seen that investments in basic research can lead to breathtaking new discoveries,” pointing specifically to China.

Chairman Alexander raised concern about reports that some federally funded research is being conducted by “bad actor” foreign nationals who may be trying to assert undue foreign influence on NIH research. Dr. Collins explained that through an internal investigation, NIH found that the risks to the security of intellectual property and the integrity of the peer review process are increasing in magnitude. In response, Dr. Collins recently wrote to 10,000 NIH grantee institutions requesting that they “review their records for evidence of malfeasance,” specifically: (1) failure by researchers to disclose substantial contributions of resources from other organizations, including foreign governments; (2) diversion of intellectual property to other entities, including foreign governments; and (3) failure by some peer reviewers to keep grant applications confidential or other attempts to influence funding decisions. In addition, Dr. Collins has formed a Working Group on Foreign Influences on Research Integrity, which will continue to look at these challenges.

Dr. Collins used his prepared remarks to highlight NIH advancements made possible with the infusion of new funds from the 21st Century Cures Act. He outlined what he called the five keys to success in science today. They include: (1) a stable trajectory of support (i.e. funding); (2) a vibrant workforce (e.g. training programs); (3) computational power, which is enabling activities like the BRAIN initiative and the All of Us Precision Medicine Initiative; (4) new technologies and facilities; and (5) scientific inspiration.

Of particular interest to the social and behavioral science community, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) asked about whether our society is becoming addicted to technology and about the public health effects of social networking, citing findings from a recent study on daily use of technology and social media among teens (Psychology of Popular Media Culture, APA). Senator Bennet called for more priority to be placed on research in these areas and asked what NIH is doing in this space. Dr. Collins cited the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, which will follow 10,000 children ages 9-10 into early adulthood, studying brain, social, cognitive and emotional development and the factors that influence them. The issue of “screen time” is among the factors to be studied. In addition, Dr. Bianchi mentioned a recent NICHD workshop looking at new research directions in these areas, including early childhood language development, reading comprehension, parent-child interactions, and technology addiction.

Other Senators asked questions on a variety of specific diseases and topics of interest to them, including opioid and other addictions, the societal costs of obesity, development of a universal flu vaccine, maternal health, and bolstering researchers from underrepresented groups.

Dr. Collins’ testimony and a video of the hearing can be found on the HELP Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 4), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

House Holds Hearing on Cures Implementation

On July 25, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held an oversight hearing on 21st Century Cures Implementation: Updates from FDA and NIH. The 21st Century Cures Act is legislation enacted in 2016 that, among other things, provides for additional funding for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Authorized in the act, the Cures funding is provided through the annual appropriations bills to boost funding for priority research in areas, including the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot initiative, the BRAIN initiative, and the All of Us Precision Medicine Initiative. The hearing offered an update from agency officials on the progress of the Cures investments. Witnesses included Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health; Stephanie Devaney, Deputy Director, NIH All of Us Research Program; Scott Gottlieb, Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration; and Norman Sharpless Director, National Cancer Institute. A related hearing on the mental health provisions within Cures was held on July 19.

In his prepared remarks, Dr. Collins highlighted NIH’s efforts and successes through the Cancer Moonshot and the All of Us Precision Medicine Initiative, both made possible through Cures Act investments. Committee members asked questions on a variety of topics, including concerns about privacy of patients and patient data within the All of Us program, NIH’s efforts to relieve administrative burden on investigators, and progress made toward cures and treatments for specific diseases and conditions.

Video of the hearing and witness testimony can be found on the Energy and Commerce Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 7), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

House Committee Approves FY 2019 Labor-HHS-Education Funding

On July 11, the full House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bill; the Labor-HHS Subcommittee advanced the bill on June 15. This bill contains annual funding proposals for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Education (ED), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), among other federal departments and agencies.

The Senate Appropriations Committee reported its version of the bill on June 28 (more here).

At a Glance…

  • The House bill includes a total of $38.334 billion for NIH in FY 2019, a $1.25 billion or 3.4 percent increase over the FY 2018 level. This amount is 10.8 percent over the President’s request, but nearly 2 percent below the Senate bill.
  • The bill would allocate $7.58 billion to the CDC, a cut of $422.9 million compared to FY 2018 and about $230 million less than the amount proposed by the Senate bill.
  • The House bill includes $334 million for AHRQ, flat with the FY 2018 enacted level and the same as the amount proposed by the Senate. The bill does not accept the Administration’s proposed consolidation of AHRQ as a new institute within the NIH.
  • The House bill would provide flat funding for BLS at $612 million, $3 million less than the amount proposed by the Senate, but still more than the amount requested by the Administration.
  • Within the Department of Education, the bill would provide $613.5 million to the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), which would be flat with its FY 2018 appropriation and 17.6 percent above the FY 2019 funding request from the Administration.

At time of publication, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have reported out 23 of the 24-fiscal year (FY) 2019 appropriations bills, twelve bills each for the House and Senate. This represents significant progress in appropriations compared to the last few fiscal years, likely thanks to a top-line spending deal struck earlier this year. However, the House of Representatives will leave D.C. for August recess starting July 30, giving them only 14 working days to approve spending bills and reconcile differences with the Senate before the government shuts down on October 1. The Senate will stay in session for much of the month of August to complete work on approving presidential nominees and vote on some of the remaining spending bills. So far, the full House has approved five of the twelve spending bills, while the Senate has only approved three. Keep up with COSSA’s coverage of FY 2019 appropriations here.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the House Appropriations Committee’s proposals for the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Department of Education.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 24), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Senate Appropriations Committee Passes FY 2019 Labor, Health Human Services, Education Bill

On June 28, the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bill; the Labor-HHS Subcommittee advanced the bill on June 26. This bill contains annual funding proposals for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Education (ED), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), among other federal departments and agencies.

The House Labor-HHS Subcommittee marked up its version of the bill on June 15 and released the bill text and accompanying report soon after; however, the full House Appropriations Committee has postponed its markup of the bill indefinitely due to reported disagreements on a number of policy issues in the bill. Therefore, this report simply summarizes the Senate’s Labor-HHS proposals and does not make comparisons to the House levels.

At a Glance…

  • The Senate bill includes a total of $39.084 billion for NIH in FY 2019, a $2 billion increase over the FY 2018 level. If enacted, NIH will have received a total of $9 billion in increases over the last four years, a 30 percent increase over that period.
  • The bill would allocate $7.8 billion to the CDC, a cut of about $193 million compared to FY 2018, but more than $2 billion above the amount proposed by the Administration.
  • The Senate bill includes $334 million for AHRQ, flat with the FY 2018 enacted level. The bill “does not support” the Administration’s proposed consolidation of AHRQ as a new institute within the NIH.
  • Within the Department of Education, the Senate bill would provide $615.5 million to IES, which would be a 0.3 percent increase in funding compared to its FY 2018 appropriation and 18 percent above the FY 2019 funding request from the Administration.

The next step for the bill is consideration by the full Senate. It remains to be seen whether or how Senate leadership will proceed with the individual appropriations bills this year. Given the fast-approaching November midterm elections and other legislative priorities, not to mention the need to confirm a new Supreme Court Justice, it is increasingly likely that FY 2019 will begin under a continuing resolution (CR) on October 1, 2018.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s proposals for the National Institutes of Health, Department of Education, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 10), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

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