Blog Archives

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)

Research!America Health Research Forum Features Pandemic Response Leaders

From September 8-11, Research!America virtually hosted the 2020 National Health Research Forum, an annual meeting bringing together leaders in the research community, federal agency officials, and national media to highlight current trends in health research and the effect of those trends on public policy decisions.  This year’s theme was Straight Talk: Securing a Science-Strong Future, which was stated to be a focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on multiple facets of the U.S. research enterprise. The virtual event featured appearances from several high level government officials including the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Director of the National Institutes of Health Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield, Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), and many others.

The speakers and panel discussions covered a wide swath of research related issues, including issues such as diversity and inclusion in research, equity in healthcare, the sustainability of the research enterprise, public confidence and behavior towards a COVID-19 vaccine, and the timeline for developing a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccines. Social and behavioral science was highlighted in several of the sessions, including those discussing public opinion of science and research, methods to increase compliance in COVID-19 prevention techniques, and in modeling behavior regarding flu vaccinations during a pandemic. In a notable segment, Dr. Fauci asserted during his speaking segment that he was confident for a vaccine to be ready by the end of 2020, but likely not before the November 3rd election. More information about the forum is available on the Research!America website.

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

National Academies Study on COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Releases Discussion Draft, Seeks Feedback (Short Turnaround)

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has released a discussion draft of a Preliminary Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine, part of a fast-track study initiated over the summer (see previous coverage). The discussion draft, released September 1, aims to identify priorities to inform allocation of a limited initial supply of COVID-19 vaccine, taking into account factors such as racial/ethnic inequities and groups at higher risk due to health status, occupation, or living conditions. Feedback will be collected during a public listening session on September 2 as well as through a written comment period closing on September 4. The fast track study intends to have a final report ready for release by early October. More information about the study, including instructions for submitting feedback, is available on the NASEM website.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 1), 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)

SEAN Releases Guidance on Contact Tracing

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) (see COSSA’s previous coverage) has released a new rapid expert consultation, Encouraging Participation and Cooperation in Contact Tracing. The guidance draws on survey research to provide federal, state, and local decision-makers, with evidence-based strategies to enhance contact tracing efforts, such as partnering with trusted sources, offering incentives, giving advance notice, tailoring messaging, and accepting partial information. The guidance is available on the National Academies website.

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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)

August Headlines Webinar to Feature Deep Dive Discussion on the “Psychology of COVID-19” with Dr. Stephen Reicher

headlines bannerCOSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly Headlines webchat on Thursday, August 13 at 2:00 pm Eastern Time. The COSSA team will break down the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month, followed by a deep dive discussion with Dr. Stephen Reicher, Wardlaw Professor of Psychology at the University of St. Andrews and co-author of Together Apart: The Psychology of COVID-19, a free book from SAGE Publishing that “examines the psychology surrounding the current pandemic and makes recommendations for how to do that right thing and with a reasonable hope of deploying the right sort of behavioral science.” Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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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)

Research Applications Increase in Wake of COVID-19 Shutdowns, NIH Finds

A recent blog post from Mike Lauer, Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), highlights how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected extramural research applications at NIH and how application rates compare to previous years. According to data collected by NIH, the number of R01-equivalent applications received by NIH between May 1 and June 5 of 2020 was 10 percent higher than the same period in 2019. The data also reflects more than a 10 percent increase of applications across all research project grants between 2020 and 2019. In addition to the spike in applications in 2020, the data shows a slightly more gender diverse application pool, with the proportion of 2020 applications with the principal investigators (PIs) reporting more than one gender category on multiple-PI applications increasing from previous years.

The data is consistent with the findings of a May 2020 international survey of scientists, which found that researchers were reporting fewer research hours but reporting more hours performing administrative duties and other activities such as grant applications. Deputy Director Lauer noted that the October 5 application deadline would provide further insight into how research activities will be affected due to many research institutions remaining closed through the typical academic calendar. NIH is expected to report on that data when it is available.

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

SEAN Releases New Guidance on Protective Behaviors to Stem COVID-19

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) (see COSSA’s previous coverage) has released a new rapid expert consultation, Encouraging Adoption of Protective Behaviors to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19. The guidance, which draws on research from communication, social psychology, and behavioral economics as well as lessons learned from successful public health campaigns such as tobacco prevention and seatbelt use, offers a set of strategies to make adoption of preventive behaviors more likely as well as risk communication strategies. It is available both as a short infographic and as a more detailed report.

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

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