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NIH Extends Enforcement Delay of Clinical Trials Policy Until September 2021

On July 24, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a notice announcing a further delay of enforcement of clinical trials reporting requirements for NIH-funded research designated as “basic experimental studies with humans.” The enforcement date, originally extended to September of this year, has been pushed to September 24, 2021. A blog post from the NIH Office of Science Policy describes the extension as necessary to address the challenges of reporting requirements for some researchers by continuing to search for common ground with the basic science community.

The notice is the latest iteration of NIH statements relating to changes to NIH’s clinical trial policy. As previously reported, NIH has established a new definition of “clinical trials” which includes some basic behavioral and social science research and mandates new reporting requirements. COSSA previously authored a Hot Topic piece detailing how the changes would affect basic research. Due to negative reactions from the basic science community on concerns of undue burden on the researchers, NIH announced a delay in the enforcement of the clinical trials policy and issued a Request for Information (RFI) to the community on best practices for implementing the policy. Read COSSA’s previous coverage for more details.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 6), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Administration Ends Attempts to Add Citizenship to 2020 Census

On July 11, President Trump announced that he would no longer seek to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census. The announcement appears to resolve over a year of controversy and confusion, which culminated in a tumultuous two weeks that included a Supreme Court ruling stating the question could not be asked unless the Administration could provide a better explanation, an announcement that the Census Bureau had begun printing materials without a citizenship question, a commitment from the Department of Justice to continue fighting to add the question back in, and upheaval in the government’s legal team. Census stakeholders are hoping that the resolution of this issue can allow preparations for the Census to move forward smoothly and allow the community to focus on encouraging full participation in the 2020 Census. COSSA issued a statement praising the decision.

While the Administration will no longer seek to modify the 2020 questionnaire, President Trump signed an executive order that directs the Census Bureau to compile estimates of citizenship using existing data from administrative records. However, the order has little practical impact on the Census Bureau, as it already had access to the majority of the data in question and in fact originally proposed producing such estimates as a less costly and more accurate alternative to adding a citizenship question to the decennial census.

Congressional committees have shifted their focus from the citizenship question to ensuring an accurate count on the 2020 Census. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hosted Census Director Steven Dillingham, along with representatives of the Government Accountability Office, last week and the House Oversight and Reform Committee will examine how to reach an accurate census count later this week.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 23), Update

Census Citizenship Question Saga Continues

Despite a decision from the Supreme Court, the fate of the Census citizenship question remains uncertain. While the ruling was expected to be the final word on whether the government could include a question on citizenship on the 2020 Census, the Supreme Court decided on June 27 that the question could only be asked if the government provided a different, more acceptable justification. However, with time running out to begin printing the necessary forms and other lawsuits working their way through lower courts, it was unclear whether enough time remained for the government to provide such a justification. See COSSA’s analysis of the decision for more details.

On July 2, the federal government announced that it had begun printing Census forms without a citizenship question, in what many believed to be an end to the controversy. However, after confusion and contradictory tweets from the President, federal officials said they were still looking for a way to add the question to the Census and intended to continue to fight the legal challenges. The government’s legal team defending the question was also replaced, in a sign that the Administration is not planning to accede to the standing rulings striking the question.

At this stage, many questions remain as to what Census documents are currently being printed, how much time the Census Bureau can realistically hold off on further printing without damaging the Census operation, how the Administration intends to justify the question, and whether enough time remains for the question to proceed through the court system. COSSA will continue to report on developments in the Washington Update.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 9), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

President Issues Executive Order to Reduce Number of Federal Advisory Committees

On June 14, the White House released an executive order directing federal agencies to eliminate at least one-third of their advisory committees by October 2019. The executive order applies to committees established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and provides exemptions for committees authorized in statute and merit review panels that are “necessary to fund extramural research.” While merit review panels are exempt from the order, science advisory committees—important for delivering scientific advice and guidance to agency leaders across the government—are not.

Agencies are directed to terminate at least one-third of their advisory committees by the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2019. Agencies can seek waivers from the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) if committees are “necessary for the delivery of essential services, for effective program delivery, or because it is otherwise warranted by the public interest.” The order can be read on the White House website and a database of FACA committees is available online. COSSA will be monitoring these developments and will report on any changes within agencies important to the social science community.

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

Comments Sought on Federal Data Strategy Action Plan

The White House is seeking public comment on its Draft 2019-2020 Federal Data Strategy Action Plan. The Federal Data Strategy, which is being coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is a “ten-year vision for how the Federal government will accelerate the use of data to support the foundations of democracy, deliver on mission, serve the public, and steward resources while protecting security, privacy and confidentiality.” The Strategy consists of 10 principles, and 40 best practices to guide federal agencies on how to leverage the value of their data. The next phase in the Strategy’s implementation is the development of a first-year Action Plan, which details concrete steps to align existing efforts and establish a firm basis of tools, processes, and capacities to leverage data as a strategic asset. The action plan also incorporates several mandated actions from the recently-passed Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018.

The proposed actions are:

Shared Actions: Government-wide Data Services

  • Action 1: Create an OMB Data Council
  • Action 2: Develop a Curated Data Science Training and Credentialing Catalog
  • Action 3: Develop a Data Ethics Framework
  • Action 4: Develop a Data Protection Toolkit
  • Action 5: Develop a Repository of Federal Data Strategy Resources and Tools
  • Action 6: Pilot a One-stop Standard Research Application
  • Action 7: Pilot an Automated Inventory Tool for Data.gov
  • Action 8: Pilot Standard Data Catalogs for Data.gov

Community Actions: Cross-Agency Collaboration

  • Action 9: Improve Data Resources for AI Research and Development
  • Action 10: Improve Financial Management Data Standards
  • Action 11: Improve Geospatial Data Standards

Agency-Specific Actions: Agency Activities

  • Action 12: Constitute a Diverse Data Governance Body
  • Action 13: Assess Data and Related Infrastructure Maturity
  • Action 14: Identify Opportunities to Increase Staff Data Skills
  • Action 15: Identify Data Needs to Answer Key Agency Questions
  • Action 16: Identify Priority Datasets for Agency Open Data Plans

Comments are sought on whether the proposed actions accurately describe the needed activities, if any actions should be added or removed, and on what resources would be needed to implement the actions. Comments should be submitted by July 5, 2019. Full details are available on the Federal Data Strategy 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)

COSSA Holds Largest-Ever Social Science Advocacy Day

COSSA held its largest-ever Social Science Advocacy Day on May 1. Over 70 social and behavioral science researchers, stakeholders, and advocates met with their Members of Congress and staff to advocate in support of funding for federal agencies and programs that support social and behavioral science research. Advocates from 20 states converged on Capitol Hill, completing 77 individual meetings.  Materials used to help articulate the value of social science research are available on the COSSA website, including fact sheets on COSSA’s FY 2019 funding requests and new topical one-pagers. To participate in social science advocacy from home, visit COSSA’s Take Action page.

The previous day, COSSA hosted an Advocacy Day prep seminar, which featured a kickoff presentation from Alan Leshner, CEO Emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Leshner’s talk, “Why Support Social Science—and How to Say It,” drew on his experience leading several high-profile National Academies panels, The Value of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences to National Priorities and Communicating Science Effectively. Leshner encouraged advocates to focus on framing their interactions with policymakers as a conversation, rather than attempting to “educate” their audience. He advised participants to use narratives in their discussions, connect their research to local issues, and try to avoid dichotomies like “hard” and “soft” science or “qualitative” and “quantitative” research. Leshner observed that while the social sciences have indeed historically faced skepticism from policymakers, today, many understand that insights from these sciences will be required to address complex problems—and social scientists should take advantage of this opportunity to further communicate the value of their disciplines.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 14), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

May 1 Is Social Science Advocacy Day!

Tomorrow, May 1, is Social Science Advocacy Day! COSSA will be supporting about 75 advocates who will head to Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of social science research and funding with policymakers. Watch COSSA’s Take Action page for an action alert to be released tomorrow that will allow you to join in from anywhere by writing to your Congressional representatives in support of social science. Join the action on Twitter by using #COSSA2019 and #whysocialscience.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 30), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

COSSA to Honor Leaders in Evidence-Based Policymaking with 2019 Awards

COSSA will recognize two sets of champions of the evidence-based policymaking movement with its 2019 awards (read the full press release). COSSA’s 2019 Distinguished Service Award will be presented to Katharine Abraham and Ron Haskins, whose leadership of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking helped catalyze efforts across federal agencies to integrate science- and evidence-based decision-making into the everyday work of government. COSSA will also present its first-ever Public Impact Award to The Lab @ DC, a team of social scientists working within the District of Columbia government to use scientific methods and insights to test and improve District policies and programs. Members of the COSSA community are invited to attend the presentation of the awards at COSSA’s annual Celebration of Social Science Reception on April 30, 2019, which is part of COSSA’s 2019 Social Science Advocacy Day festivities. RSVP for the reception here.

The COSSA Distinguished Service Award recognizes leaders who have gone above and beyond to promote, protect, and advance the social and behavioral science research enterprise. The newly established COSSA Public Impact Award seeks to celebrate ways individuals or organizations are using social and behavioral science research to achieve notable improvements in communities. Awardees are chosen by the COSSA Board of Directors, which represents COSSA’s governing member associations. More information about the awards is available on COSSA’s website.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 16), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Administration Releases FY 2020 Budget Request; Read COSSA’s Analysis of Social Science Impacts

On March 11, the Trump Administration released a preview of its Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget request to Congress, with additional details unveiled the following weeks. The budget was delivered about a month late, largely due to the partial government shutdown that paralyzed much of the federal workforce throughout December and January.

The President’s request proposes steep cuts to all corners of the federal budget, with the exception of national security-focused agencies which would see significant boosts. When considering the Trump Administration’s proposals for FY 2020 it is important to remember that the budget request remains a political, largely symbolic document outlining the Administration’s priorities for the years ahead. It is important to take note of the policy priorities contained within the budget as they could shape some legislative and/or executive actions later in the year; however, as is always the case, Congress has the final say over the appropriation of funds and, in the case of the FY 2020 budget request, legislators are not likely to share the President’s funding priorities, especially cuts to research, the elimination of entire agencies, and reductions in domestic funding more generally.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the President’s proposals as they pertain to social and behavioral science research. You can read our supplement on the Department of Commerce budget request (which was released late) here.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 2), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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