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COSSA’s Analysis of Enacted COVID-19 Supplemental Funding Legislation, FY 2020

Over the past month, Congress has passed three large stimulus bills in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, the three bills comprise the largest economic stimulus package in American history and touch nearly all aspects of American life, including scientific research, support for key economic sectors and small businesses, direct financial support to Americans, and boosts to social safety net programs. All three bills enacted in response to the crisis, so far, have been supplemental appropriations bills, meaning they provide funds to federal agencies and programs in addition to what has already been appropriated for the current fiscal year (FY 2020), which began on October 1, 2019. It remains to be seen how this infusion of funds will impact, if at all, appropriations for next fiscal year (FY 2021), beginning on October 1, 2020. Follow COSSA’s FY 2021 coverage here.

The House of Representatives and Senate are in recess until further notice. Still, Congress is expected to consider additional stimulus legislation in the months ahead. Read on for COSSA’s summary of the three bills that have been enacted so far.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 31), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Science Committee Leaders Introduce Artificial Intelligence Legislation

On March 12, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee introduced the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act of 2020 (H.R. 6216). The legislation intends to accelerate and coordinate federal investments and facilitate new public-private partnerships in research, standards, and education in artificial intelligence, to ensure the United States leads the world in the development and use of responsible artificial intelligence systems. The legislation includes many opportunities for agencies to support research on the social and behavioral dimensions of artificial intelligence and emphasizes the importance of understanding the social, ethical, and economic implications of artificial intelligence. The legislation has a bipartisan group of original cosponsors, including Representatives Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Pete Olson (R-TX), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), and Randy Weber (R-TX). The full text of the legislation and a one-page description can be found on the Science Committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 31), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

A Word from COSSA…

Dear Friends:

Our thoughts are with everyone feeling the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. As the world adjusts to a new—and hopefully temporary—way of life, lawmakers in Washington are scrambling to keep the economic and public health consequences from spiraling out of control. Consistent with any major crisis, the next several weeks, if not months, will see nearly all other policymaking grind to a halt as resources (time, personnel, and money) are diverted appropriately to tackling the challenge before us.

This leaves many unknowns about the fate of science funding and policymaking for the foreseeable future. In response, COSSA has decided to transition its Social Science Advocacy Day, originally designed as a “fly-in” for advocates to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, into a “phone-in.” In addition, we elected to delay the Advocacy Day phone-in by one month to April 27-28, 2020. If you are registered for Social Science Advocacy Day and have not been contacted by the COSSA team about these changes, please contact me.

We have outlined below some of the latest developments related to funding and policy important to the social and behavioral science community in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional Congressional, Federal Agency, and community updates are also provided.

Finally, we recognize that in these trying times, the activities of Washington might be the farthest from your mind. We will continue to work on behalf of the social science research community during this uncertain time and report on new developments. But more importantly, we hope you will take care of yourself, your family, and your community.

Be well,

Wendy Naus
COSSA Executive Director

Congress

Congressional leaders have been busy working to address the COVID-19 outbreak. On March 6, the President signed into law an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill to address the pandemic. The funding measure included support for state and local health agencies, vaccine and treatment development, and loans for affected small business. More emergency funding and policy measures are expected from Congress.

The outlook for Congressional productivity, particularly on annual appropriations, is uncertain. On March 12, the House and Senate Sergeant at Arms directed the Capitol, as well as the House and Senate Office Buildings to be closed to the public and many Congressional offices have moved to working remotely.

It is too early to tell how the pandemic will affect science funding next year, let alone federal research support this year (check out the next section on how federal agencies are responding to the coronavirus). The COVID-19 crisis coupled with the upcoming Presidential election all but guarantees that fiscal year 2021 will begin on October 1 under a cloud of uncertainty and very likely a continuing resolution.

Federal Agencies

Federal research agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have released a series of informational documents and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it affects daily research functions at those agencies.

The NIH FAQ includes links to the most recent information available about how the epidemic will affect practices for existing research awards, affect future awards, how NIH can assist funded researchers with sunk costs for travel or conference fees, and how to best impose isolation in larger research institutions.

The NSF FAQ offers similar information about changes to research practices, but also includes several pieces of information about coronavirus research funding opportunities. NSF has released a Dear Colleague Letter providing guidance on submitting research proposals seeking to treat or prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The NSF Dear Colleague Letter states that research proposals related to COVID-19 may be submitted through existing funding opportunities at NSF, but also invites submissions through the Rapid Response Research (RAPID) funding mechanism for quick-response and time-sensitive events. The NSF FAQ offers additional information about the logistics and special considerations of these coronavirus research proposals. The Dear Colleague Letter and more information about RAPID is available on the NSF website.

Useful Resources

General COVID-19 Resources:

University/Educator Resources:

Federal Agency Resources:

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 17), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Work on FY 2021 Appropriations Slows as Congress Works to Address Coronavirus Outbreak

While it is expected that Congress will soon put its regular appropriations work on hold as work shifts to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, committees have begun hearing testimony from Trump Administration officials on federal agencies’ budget proposals for fiscal year 2021. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Kelvin Droegemeier testified in front of the House Science Committee on the Administration’s budget for research and development (see previous coverage), NIH leadership testified before the House Appropriations Committee (see related article), and Department of Commerce leadership testified before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. No appropriations bills have been released or considered by the Committees. As the process moves forward—if it moves forward—COSSA will produce analyses of the proposals important to the social and behavioral sciences.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 17), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Holds Hearing on NIH Budget for FY 2021

On March 4, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) held a hearing on the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for fiscal year (FY) 2021. Witnesses included NIH Director Francis Collins; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Director Diana Bianchi; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Director Gary Gibbons; National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Ned Sharpless; and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow.

Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK), and full Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) all made glowing remarks in support of NIH and shared an optimism that the agency would receive a significant increase in its budget in FY 2021. Members of the Subcommittee questioned the witnesses on a variety of topics including NIH’s role in responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, initiatives addressing health disparities, Alzheimer’s disease research, open access of federally funded research, and several disease-specific topics. A statement from Collins and a recording of the hearing are available on the House LHHS website.

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House Science Committee Holds Hearing on FY 2021 Research and Development Budget Request

On February 27, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to review the Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request for research and development (see COSSA’s analysis of the President’s budget request). Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), was the committee’s only witness and discussed the administration’s priorities across federal science agencies.

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) expressed concern for proposed cuts to research funding at the National Science foundation (NSF), NASA, the Department of Energy, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In her opening statement, she shared that the cuts appear to be driven by an ideology in the administration that “aggressively seeks to undermine faith in science and scientists and to discount expertise at all levels of government and society.” Her fellow Democrats echoed these concerns, particularly around cuts to the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E), the role of OSTP in federal rulemaking, and the prioritization of certain programs at the expense of others within agencies, including human space flight at NASA and computer science at NSF.

Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) commended Dr. Droegemeier for prioritizing the security of U.S. research and research into so-called “industries of the future”— including artificial intelligence and 5G — in the FY 2021 research and development budget. Republicans inquired about the implementation of the Securing American Science and Technology Act and the activities of the Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE). A recording of the hearing, along with Dr. Droegemeier and Chairwoman Johnson’s open statements are available on the Science Committee’s website. Ranking Member Lucas’ opening statement is available on the Science Committee Republican’s website.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 3), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Republicans Introduce Bill to Reauthorize Science Agencies

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced the Securing American Leadership in Science and Technology Act (H.R. 5685), a bill to reauthorize science agencies, on January 29. Science Committee Democrats are working on their own science agency reauthorization legislation, but details have not yet been released for the agencies most important to the social sciences. COSSA will report on the majority’s proposals when they are released.

The Republicans’ legislation proposes doubling basic research funding over the next ten years at the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The legislation also includes support for clean energy infrastructure, resources for growing the STEM workforce, and modernization of Antarctic science and conservation programs.

The minority’s bill would increase NSF’s budget, which is currently just over $8 billion, to more than $14 billion by 2029 and recognizes the importance of the agency’s support for fundamental research across all disciplines of science and engineering. Additionally, the bill directs NSF to undergo several specific activities including, developing ethics and security plans for research, supporting more mid-scale research infrastructure, and awarding grants to support research and training related to scientific reproducibility. The bill also proposes an external review of NSF’s structure and support for cross-disciplinary research.

While the bill includes several marked changes from Republican science reauthorization proposals of the past, it is not likely to be taken up by the Science, Space, and Technology Committee or the full House of Representatives, which are both under Democratic control. However, it is possible that provisions from the Republican bill could make it into legislation developed by the Democrats. More information about the bill and a copy of the legislation, can be viewed on the Science Committee Republican’s website.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Passes Bill on Suicide Prevention Research

On January 27, the House of Representatives passed the Advancing Research to Prevent Suicide Act (H.R. 4704) by a vote of 385 to 8. The bill, sponsored by freshman Member Ben McAdams (D-UT), would direct the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund cross-disciplinary research—including research in the social and behavioral sciences—focused on preventing suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Additionally, the bill enables NSF to collaborate with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund research grants on suicide prevention and promote the professional development of suicide prevention researchers. Although the bill was passed by the Democrat-controlled House, it is unlikely to gain traction with the Republican-controlled Senate and will likely not become law.

The full text of the bill is available online. More information can be found on McAdams’ website.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Impeachment, Natural Disasters and Elections Signal Difficult Road Ahead for FY 2021 Appropriations

The second session of the 116th Congress kicked off earlier this month, and while the new year did not begin with a historically-long government shutdown as it did in 2019, Congress still faces a myriad of challenges to completing spending bills for the coming fiscal year. The Senate is expected to begin the impeachment trial of President Trump on January 21, which will fully occupy the Senate’s time, leaving significant legislative debates until after the trial concludes, which could be several weeks. While the House has finished its impeachment business, a backlog of work remains for the lower chamber, including passing disaster funding for earthquake-stricken Puerto Rico.

Another hurdle to finishing spending decisions on time is the 2020 general election. The majorities in both the House and Senate are at stake and leadership in both chambers have included significant amounts of recess time into their 2020 schedules, ensuring facetime with constituents but leaving less time to legislate. Despite the many challenges that lie ahead, Congressional leaders have continued to express interest in completing fiscal year (FY) 2021 spending bills before the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

Continue to follow the COSSA Washington Update for news on FY 2021. If you are a COSSA member, you can hear further analysis on what challenges and opportunities COSSA anticipates in the coming year in the recording of January’s COSSA Headlines.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 21), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Congress Completes FY 2020 Appropriations Process; Read COSSA’s Analysis

In a final, year-end show of bipartisanship, Congress passed all of its FY 2020 appropriations bills last month. While still nearly three months late (FY 2020 began on October 1), completion of all 12 appropriations bills before the end of the calendar year is a welcomed departure from recent years that had some agencies not receiving their final budgets until well into the new year. This officially closes the books on FY 2020 and allows lawmakers to hit the ground running on FY 2021 funding when the new session starts this week.

The two funding packages (H.R. 1865 and H.R. 1158) together contain all 12 annual appropriations bills. In most cases, the final numbers tell a positive story for agencies and programs important to the social and behavioral sciences.

Read on for COSSA’s complete analysis of final FY 2020 funding for the agencies important to social science.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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