Blog Archives

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)

House Passes First of FY 2020 Bills

The House of Representatives passed the first set of fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations bills on June 21, including the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies bill, which is responsible for funding the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Education, among other agencies. The House next turned to consideration of another package of bills, including the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies bill (CJS), which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Census Bureau, among other agencies. At the time of publication, the House is still considering the CJS bill package, but is expected to pass nearly all twelve appropriations bills before Congress leaves for Independence Day recess.

While the House has nearly completed its appropriations work, the Senate Appropriations Committee is waiting for top-level discretionary funding (known within the Beltway as “302a allocations”) to be finalized before proceeding on their versions of the FY 2020 appropriations bills. As COSSA has reported, discretionary budget caps must be raised if federal agencies and programs are to realize any funding increases in FY 2020.

Follow COSSA’s reporting on FY 2020 appropriations here and take action on social science funding and spending caps here.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 25), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Sexual Harassment in Science, Passes Bipartisan Bills

On June 12, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (SST) held a hearing to discuss combatting sexual harassment in scientific and research-oriented settings. Witnesses included Managing Director of Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) John Neumann, Wellesley College President Dr. Paula Johnson, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Boston University Dr. Jean Morrison, and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of California, Davis Dr. Phillip Kass.

SST Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) both expressed concern about the prevalence of sexual harassment in science and research and questioned the witnesses on best practices for prevention and reporting. Some of the topics raised in the hearing included the inconsistencies in policies of federal research agencies, the cultural forces that discourage the reporting and prevention of sexual harassment, successful prevention techniques used by other countries such as the United Kingdom’s Athena SWAN program, and the drastically higher rates of sexual harassment facing women of color. Some recommendations offered by the witnesses included increasing staff and funding for prevention and reporting at federal agencies, making prevention and reporting policies uniform across federal agencies, introducing better sexual harassment training at research settings, and increasing diversity in research settings. A statement from Chairwoman Johnson and a recording of the full hearing are available on the SST Committee website.

The following week on June 20, the SST Committee marked up the STEM Opportunities Act of 2019 (H.R. 2528), the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 (H.R. 36), and the Expanding Findings for Federal Opioid Research and Treatment Act (H.R. 3153), among others.  The bills held bipartisan support from the SST Committee members and amendments for H.R. 2528 and H.R. 36 were agreed upon in order to incorporate stakeholder input and to clarify language. COSSA officially endorsed the sexual harassment bill earlier this year. A statement from Chairwoman Johnson and a recording of the markup are available on the SST Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 25), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

FY 2020 Agriculture Bill Advances in House

The House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2020 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill on June 4. This bill contains funding for the two U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistical agencies, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), as well as the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which funds competitive research projects. The bill was marked up in subcommittee on May 23.

At a Glance…

  • The bill contains language prohibiting the move of ERS and NIFA outside of the National Capital Region. The House Agriculture Committee is also investigating this issue and held a hearing on June 5 on “Examining the Impacts of Relocating USDA Research Agencies on Agriculture Research.”
  • The House bill would provide ERS with $87.8 million, a 1.2 percent increase from FY 2019 and a rejection of the steep cuts proposed by the Administration.
  • The bill would provide NASS with $180.8 million, an increase of $6.3 million and $17.8 million above the Administration’s request.
  • The House mark would provide NIFA with a total of $1.6 million in discretionary funds, a $142.8 million increase for the agency compared to FY 2019 and $222.4 million above the Administration’s request.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the House Appropriations Committee’s proposals for the Economic Research Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, and National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 11), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Senate Finance Committee Holds Hearing on Foreign Threats to Taxpayer-Funded Research

On June 5, the Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing to discuss the espionage of publicly funded medical research by foreign governments as well as potential oversight or policy solutions. Witnesses present were Assistant Deputy Secretary for National Security at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Captain Michael Schmoyer, Principal Deputy Director at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dr. Lawrence Tabak, Chief of Investigative Operations at the HHS Office of Inspector General Les Hollie, Deputy Assistant Director of Homeland Security Investigations at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Louis Rodi, and Associate Director for Biophysical Oncology at the Knight Cancer Institute and Oregon Health & Science University Biomedical Engineering Director Dr. Joe Gray. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) was invited to testify but declined the invitation.

Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) both expressed concerns with foreign research espionage and questioned the witnesses on the investigations of the 61 identified espionage cases. Some of the issues raised during the hearing included the cooperation between the FBI and federal agencies, the investigative infrastructure at federal agencies, common indicators of federal grant fraud, and the cooperation of universities with federal espionage investigations. Following the hearing, the Committee met in closed session to discuss classified information with the witnesses. A written statement from Grassley along with witness testimonies and a recording of the open hearing can be found on the Committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 11), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Panel Approves FY 2020 Funding for NSF, Census, BJS, and NIJ

On May 22, the House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Bill; the CJS Subcommittee advanced the bill on May 17. This bill contains annual funding proposals for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Census Bureau, among other federal departments and agencies. Overall, the House bill is favorable to agencies important to the COSSA community, with increases proposed across the bill’s jurisdiction.

At a glance…

  • The House CJS bill includes $8.6 billion for the National Science Foundation in FY 2020, which, if appropriated, would be a significant increase of more than $561 million or 7 percent over FY 2019.
  • The House bill would provide the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) with $37 million and $43 million, respectively. This would represent flat funding for NIJ and BJS compared to their FY 2019 funding levels.
  • The House’s proposal would provide the Census Bureau with a total of $8.45 billion for FY 2020, which is $2.3 billion above the amount requested by the Administration and in line with the amount sought by the Census stakeholder community.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the House Appropriations Committee’s proposals for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and Census Bureau.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 28), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Joint Economic Committee Holds Hearing on 2020 Census and Business Impacts

On May 22, Congress’ Joint Economic Committee held a hearing on “The Economic Impacts of the 2020 Census and Business Uses of Federal Data.” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who co-chairs the House Census Caucus, presided over the hearing, which featured testimony from Andrew Reamer, Research Professor at the George Washington University’s George Washington Institute of Public Policy; Howard Feinberg, Vice President for Advocacy at the Insights Association and Co-Director of the Census Project; Mallory Bateman, Senior Research Analyst at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute; and Nicholas Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute. Members questioned the witnesses on the impact of the citizenship question on the 2020 Census, risks of underfunding the Census, and collecting information about participants’ involvement in the criminal justice system on federal surveys like the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey. A recording of the hearing, members’ opening statements, and written testimony from the witnesses are posted on the committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 28), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

International Education Reauthorization Bills Introduced in Both Chambers

On May 7, Representatives David Price (D-NC), Susan Davis (D-CA) and Andy Levin (D-NJ) introduced Advancing International and Foreign Language Education Act (H.R. 2562) to reauthorize the Title VI International Education programs at the Department of Education. Both bills aim to support the existing international education programs at the Department. The bill is a companion to S. 342 introduced earlier this year by Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). More information can be found in Rep. Price’s press release.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 28), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Committee Approves FY 2020 Spending for NIH, CDC, BLS, AHRQ, ED

On May 8, the House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bill; the Labor-HHS Subcommittee advanced the bill on April 30. 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. In a departure from what has become regular practice, the Labor-HHS bill was one of the first out the gate this year; the often-contentious bill is typically considered later in the appropriations process once more bipartisan bills have been advanced.

At a glance…

  • The House bill includes a total of $41.084 billion for NIH in FY 2020, a $2 billion or 5 percent increase over the FY 2019 level.
  • The bill includes $8.2 billion for the CDC, a $920.6 million increase above the FY 2019 enacted level and $1.7 billion above the Administration’s request for FY 2020.
  • The House bill would provide $358.2 million for AHRQ in FY 2020, a 6 percent or $20.2 million increase compared to FY 2019.
  • The bill would provide BLS with $675.8 million, an increase of $60.8 million from FY 2019.
  • Within the Department of Education, the bill would provide $650 million to the IES, which would be a 5.6 percent increase compared to its FY 2019 enacted level and 24.6 percent above the FY 2020 funding request from the Administration.

Read on for COSSA’s full 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 10 (May 14), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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