Blog Archives

Senate Health Committee Holds Hearing on COVID-19 Response and Addressing Health Disparities

On March 25, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on health equity and health disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Committee members heard testimony from Vice President for Health Equity at Vanderbilt University Medical Center Dr. Consuelo H. Wilkins, Executive Vice President of the Seattle Indian Health Board Abigail Echo-Hawk, Managing Director of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress Taryn Mackenzie Williams, and President and CEO of Atrium Health Gene A. Woods.

Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC), and Committee members all expressed concerns over deep health disparities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including for communities of color, individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and rural communities. The Committee members questioned the witnesses on a variety of topics including COVID-19 vaccines and how to equitably distribute them to at-risk communities, the effect of the pandemic on Indian and tribal health services, the increased importance of telehealth during the pandemic, diversity among clinal trial participants for vaccines, and incorporating health equity practices in health data and data management.

The witnesses’ testimonies and a full recording of the hearing are available on the HELP website.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 30), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

PAA to Host Briefing on Demographic Insights into COVID-19

The Population Association of America will host a virtual congressional briefing, “Living, Working, Dying: Demographic Insights into COVID-19” on Friday, April 23, 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. ET. The event will feature presentations by prominent population scientists who will present findings on the disparate impacts of COVID, especially as they relate to mortality, education, food insecurity, and family dynamics, and what additional research and data are needed to understand and address its far-reaching effects. The briefing will feature Dr. Noreen Goldman of Princeton University. Dr. Caitlyn Collins of Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Marc Garcia of the University of Nebraska, and Dr. Anna Gassman-Pines of Duke University. Registration is available here.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 30), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Biden Signs American Rescue Plan, with Funding for NSF, IES, Universities

On March 11, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319). As previously reported, the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill includes $600 million in funding to support research related to the pandemic at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and $100 million to support research related to K-12 learning loss at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The bill also includes $39.9 billion in funding to support colleges and universities. Now that this major piece of legislation has been enacted, lawmakers’ attention will turn to appropriations for the coming fiscal year. In addition, discussions will begin for another aid bill targeted for later in the spring that will be more broadly focused on recovery and infrastructure.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 16), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

NASEM Releases Report Documenting COVID-19’s Impact on Women in STEM, Compiles New COVID Resource

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has released a new consensus study that details how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected women in STEM fields. The report, Impact of COVID-19 on the Careers of Women in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “identifies, names, and documents how the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the careers of women in academic STEMM during the initial 9-month period since March 2020 and considers how these disruptions—both positive and negative—might shape future progress for women.” NASEM has also compiled its most important reports, findings, and activities related to the COVID-19 pandemic released over the past year into a new publication: Critical Findings on COVID-19.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 16), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

House Passes Funding for NSF, Higher Ed, and IES in $1.9 trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill

The House of Representatives passed a massive relief bill on February 27 that aims to bring financial support to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (H.R. 1319, committee report) includes direct payments to individuals, expansion of unemployment assistance, and an increase to the national minimum wage, among many other provisions. It also includes several notable provisions of interest to the science community, including $39.9 billion in funding for colleges and universities, with half to be used for student aid, as laid out in the CARES Act (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The bill also includes $100 million for the Institute of Education Sciences for research related to addressing learning loss caused by the coronavirus among K-12 students.

In addition, the National Science Foundation would receive $600 million “to fund or extend new and existing research grants, cooperative agreements, scholarships, fellowships, and apprenticeships, and related administrative expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” While not included in the original bill text, this funding was added as part of the manager’s amendment that was passed on the House floor. This funding, if enacted, could only be used for research about the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill does not provide any any relief for scientists whose research on other topics has been disrupted. The bipartisan RISE Act (see previous coverage), should it become law, would provide NSF with $3 billion to support non-COVID-related research impacted by the pandemic.

Senate leadership is now working on its own version of the legislation, which is expected to be voted on the coming days. While some of the larger provisions may change, such as the minimum wage increase, the research and higher education relief funding discussed above is expected to be maintained in the Senate bill. COSSA will continue to report on the progress of this legislation as it nears passage.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

March Headlines to Feature Deep Dive on Pandemic Relief for Researchers

headlines bannerCOSSA members are invited to register for the monthly Headlines webchat on Thursday, March 11 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 on current legislative proposals to provide relief to scholars whose research has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 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 5 (March 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on COVID-19 Impacts and the Recovery of the U.S. Research Enterprise

On February 25, the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology (SST) held a hearing on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on U.S. research and potential solutions to provide relief and recovery to the research enterprise. The hearing featured testimony from CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Dr. Sudip Parikh, Vice President for Research at Washington State University Dr. Christopher Keane, Executive Vice President of the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Thomas Quaadman, and Executive Director of the American Educational Research Association and member of COSSA’s Board of Directors Dr. Felice Levine. The hearing was presided over by SST Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK).

The Committee members questioned the witnesses on a variety of issues related to the public health emergency surrounding COVID-19 and how it is affecting the U.S. research enterprise. Members posed questions related to the stagnation of U.S. research investment per capita, the future of U.S. leadership in science on the international stage, inequities among women and racial minorities in research, the career development for young people in science and technology, the importance of public-private partnerships in coordinating the research enterprise, and the need for funding to jumpstart research that has slowed due to the pandemic.

A major topic of discussion was the prospect of passing the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (H.R. 869), which would authorize $25 billion across several research agencies to offset costs related to lost research productivity due to the pandemic. Each of the panelists voiced support for the passage of the RISE Act, with many Democratic members of the Committee echoing this support. Support for the legislation was also expressed by some of the Republican members of the Committee, including Ranking Member Lucas, although concerns were raised about perceived partisanship in the drafting of the bill and reluctance to spend money for research while institutions are partially closed.

Of note, Dr. Levine advocated for the passage of the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act (H.R. 144) to help offset lost human capital in research. Dr. Levine also highlighted the role of the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as well as the role of the social and behavioral sciences in identifying ways to bolster the scientific workforce in the aftermath of COVID-19 and for future generations.

Chairwoman Johnson’s opening statement, the witnesses’ testimonies, and a recording of the hearing are available on the SST Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing On COVID-19 Vaccines and Encouraging Uptake

On February 19, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing on “The Science of COVID-19 Vaccines and Encouraging Vaccine Uptake.” The Committee heard testimony from Professor in Vaccinology and Director at the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, Director and Health Authority at the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Philip Huang, Deputy Commissioner at the Oklahoma State Department of Health Keith Reed, and the Scientific Director at the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics and Associate Professor of Nursing and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing Dr. Alison Buttenheim. The hearing was overseen by Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK).

Throughout the hearing, varying were views expressed over whether supply or demand of vaccines should be the focus. Dr. Huang reminded the Committee that vaccine hesitancy remains an issue, and Dr. Neuzil advocated for more investment into social science research for a better understanding of vaccine hesitancy. Dr. Buttenheim and Dr. Huang both advocated for removing logistical hurdles preventing citizens from getting discouraged by protocols. The witnesses also criticized the framing of “Operation Warp Speed,” the government’s vaccine development and distribution initiative, as a potential contributor to public fear of the speed of vaccine development. They also cautioned against proposing incentives for vaccination, on the grounds that it would send the wrong message around vaccines.

There was also discussion around differences between the several versions of the vaccine and how citizens could be overwhelmed by choosing which vaccine to take. Dr. Buttenheim advocated for reducing the cognitive load for citizens by bringing all authorized COVID-19 vaccines under one label like influenza vaccines. Two Committee members, Mike Garcia (R-CA) and Randy Weber (R-TX), raised concerns over this approach—Garcia agreed with the science behind the reasoning, but believed this could do more harm than good in the long-term. Every witness agreed that communication coming from local and trusted medical leaders must be clear and consistent to allow diverse strategies that best serve the populations equitably and build long-term confidence. Dr. Buttenheim laid out specific strategies in her written testimony. The hearing is available on the Committee on Science, Space, & Technology’s website.

This article was contributed by Nicholas Lynn, COSSA’s spring intern.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

SEAN Releases New Expert Consultation on COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) (see COSSA’s previous coverage) has published a new rapid expert consultation, Building COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence. The guidance compiles research-backed strategies for effectively reaching vulnerable communities and skeptical populations to provide trustworthy information about the COVID-19 vaccine. The consultation is available as an interactive web tool, with highlights on Strategies for Public Engagement to Combat Mistrust and Build COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence and Communication Strategies for Promoting COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance.  The report is also available as a full report on the National Academies website.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 16), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Congress Confronts Packed Post-Impeachment To-Do List

For the first time since taking office, the Biden Administration and 117th Congress can work without being consumed by the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill can now forge ahead on a COVID-19 relief package currently being negotiated and with confirmation hearings for Biden appointees. The House is looking to vote on a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package next week, which is expected to pass largely along party lines. The goal is for the House and Senate to send a completed package to the President by March 14 when current unemployment insurance relief expires. On the nominations front, President Biden’s picks to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Management and Budget, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Education, as well as Attorney General, are all still awaiting confirmation by the Senate. There will be a flurry of activity over the next few weeks to play catch up now that impeachment is complete.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 16), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

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