Blog Archives

White House Issues Ban on Entry of Skilled Foreign Workers

On June 22, President Trump issued a proclamation further extending restrictions on foreign travel to the United States in order to reduce the competitiveness of the U.S. labor market. The proclamation argues that due to the economic downturn and resulting unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic, foreign workers “pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.” The proclamation prohibits the entry of foreign workers under several visa categories commonly used by science and academic institutions to hire employees with unique skills and specialized training, including H-1B and H-4 visas, for skilled workers and their spouses respectively; J-1 visas, for scholarly and other cultural exchanges; most H-2B visas, for nonagricultural workers; and L-1 visas, for foreign employees of companies to transfer to U.S. locations. The proclamation takes effect on June 24 and will remain in effect through the end of 2020.

Many scientific and higher education organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association of American Universities (AAU), and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU),  have issued statements criticizing the proclamation, arguing that preventing the entry of skilled workers to the U.S. will reduce the competitiveness of American industry and stifle scientific progress.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 23), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Message from COSSA on Police Violence and Racial Injustice

We stand in solidarity with those protesting against the abuses of police power and the racist systems that perpetuate this violence. One of the fundamental lessons from the social sciences is that our lives are governed by social systems that were designed to bestow advantages and disadvantages unequally. While the social sciences have helped to illuminate those structures and the inequities and harms they create, the science community has failed to effectively address them within the scientific enterprise itself.

While we cannot undo the horrific injustices of the past, we are committed to eradicating the scourge of white supremacy—both within the sciences themselves and in our own communities. In our collective efforts to confront the daily suffering perpetuated by racism and racist systems, we can bring the strength of the social and behavioral sciences to bear on society’s greatest challenges—to understand and work toward real change.

#BlackLivesMatter
#WhySocialScience

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 9), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Recordings of COVID-19-Related COSSA Headlines Webinars Now Available

In recognition of the severity of the current coronavirus crisis, COSSA has elected to make recordings of its members-only Headlines webinars related to the pandemic available immediately, rather than waiting an additional month to release the recordings to non-members. Check out the Headlines page on the COSSA website for links to previous recordings, including our most recent deep dive discussion with University of Florida epidemiologist Natalie Dean, who called for social scientists to weigh in on critical questions such as how best to facilitate contact tracing and providing insight into factors that could affect the public’s reaction to a potential vaccine. Other Headlines discussions related to COVID-19 focused on communication strategies in an emerging public health crisis and the role of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in coordinating science agencies’ response. COSSA members can sign up for members-only emails to receive information on how to join these webinars live.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 26), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Census Releases First COVID-19 Household Data

The Census Bureau has released the first data from its new COVID-19 Household Pulse Survey, which asks over 50,000 Americans about their employment status, spending patterns, food security, housing, physical and mental health, access to health care, and educational disruption during the coronavirus pandemic (see previous coverage). The data, which covers April 23-May 5, was released as tables and through an interactive dashboard. More information about the survey is available on the Census Bureau website. Data will continue to be released on a weekly basis throughout the survey’s 90-day duration. In addition, the Census Bureau has released data on the pandemic’s impact on small businesses collected by its Small Business Pulse Survey.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 26), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

National Academies Holds Webinar on COVID-19 and Extreme Environmental Events

The National Academies Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Board on Environmental Change and Society and Resilient America Roundtable convened a webinar on May 13 to discuss the social science aspects of potential emergencies that compound the current COVID-19 crisis with environmental hazards, such as fires, hurricanes, flooding, and heatwaves. The event featured experts from federal government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as universities, and nonprofit and community organizations. Panelists discussed the challenges of responding to emergencies and natural disasters amidst a pandemic and the need for social science to shed more light on how individuals and communities are likely to respond to such situations. A recording of the event is available on the NASEM website.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 26), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

New Proposal Would Rename NSF, Create New Technology Directorate

On May 21, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Endless Frontier Act (S. 3832). A counterpart bill (H.R. 6978) was also introduced in the House by Representatives Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI). The legislation proposes the establishment of a new Technology Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF), which would be renamed the National Science and Technology Foundation (NSTF). While housed within NSF/NSTF, a basic science agency, the overarching goal of the legislation is to infuse funding—$100 billion over five years—specifically for research and development in 10 technology areas of global strategic significance. The 10 areas include: (1) artificial intelligence and machine learning (2) high performance computing, semiconductors, and advanced computer hardware (3) quantum computing and information systems (4) robotics, automation, and advanced manufacturing (5) natural or anthropogenic disaster prevention (6) advanced communications technology (7) biotechnology, genomics, and synthetic biology (8) cybersecurity, data storage and data management technologies (9) advanced energy (10) materials science, engineering, and exploration relevant to other key technology areas. The 10 areas would be revisited every 4 years.

Such a focus on technology transfer would be a major departure for NSF, which since its founding has focused on supporting fundamental research across all scientific disciplines and fields. The bill’s sponsors contend that the agencies’ other activities would be left untouched by the legislation. Still, considering the bill’s authorization level for these new technology activities is nearly triple the NSF’s current budget, one could surmise that the proposal would mark a major shift in priority for the 70-year-old agency.

While, as noted earlier, this and other legislation could be attached to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the bill would first need to work its way through the Senate oversight committees as well as those in the House, which has been working to develop its own, yet-to-be-introduced NSF reauthorization legislation.  COSSA will continue to report on this and other NSF authorizing bills in the months ahead.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 26), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

COSSA Advocates Tell Congress to Use Social Science to Fight COVID-19

On April 28, about 40 social and behavioral scientists and stakeholders participated in COSSA’s sixth annual Social Science Advocacy Day, meeting virtually with Members of Congress and their staff about the many ways social and behavioral science is helping to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Advocates representing 16 states participated, holding 58 individual meeting with Congressional offices. Materials used to help explain the unique contributions the social and behavioral sciences make to fighting COVID-19 and to address other pressing national issues are available on COSSA’s Advocacy Resources page. You can help amplify this message by responding to COSSA’s Action Alert on social science and the COVID-19 crisis.

COSSA is particularly grateful to the event’s sponsors, who chose to continue to support Advocacy Day without an in-person component. Sincere thanks to the American Anthropological Association, American Educational Research Association, American Evaluation Association, American Psychological Association, American Society of Criminology, American Sociological Association, Association of American Universities, Boston University, Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, National Communication Association, Penn state Social Science Research Institute, Population Association of America, Princeton University, SAGE Publishing, Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and Society for Research and Child Development.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 12), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Congress Remains Focused on COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, Congress continues to prioritize attention to combatting the disease and addressing the resulting economic repercussions. As lawmakers argue about the contents of another supplemental appropriations bill, a pair of Dear Colleague Letters (DCL) have been circulated in the House and Senate in support of $26 billion for federal research agencies in the next COVID-19 package. The House letter, sponsored by Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI), garnered 178 signatories and the Senate letter, sponsored by Ed Markey (D-MA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), had 33 signatories. The timeline for future supplemental bills is still unclear.

On May 6, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) held a hearing addressing the ongoing COVID-19 response. The Subcommittee heard testimony from President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tom Frieden, and Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Caitlin Rivers. Members of the Subcommittee and the witnesses discussed a variety of issues related to the pandemic, including the best methods for reopening parts of the economy, the role of contact tracing in identifying at-risk individuals, best public health practices for rural communities, and the production timeline of a vaccine and other medical supplies. A major topic of discussion was the possibility of the Appropriations Committee to initiate a Health Defense Operations (HDO) account intended to address immediate public health crises such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. This account would be structured similarly to the often-controversial Department of Defense’s Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account and would allow much greater flexibility in funding public health initiatives without being affected by budget caps or competing with other discretionary accounts. A recording of the hearing and the witnesses’ testimonies are available on the Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 12), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

NSF, National Academies Launch Network to Connect Social Scientists to COVID-19 Policymakers

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have formed the Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) to connect social and behavioral science researchers with decision-makers who are leading the response to COVID-19. SEAN will respond to the most pressing social, behavioral, and economic questions that are being asked by federal, state, and local officials by working with appropriate experts to quickly provide actionable answers. The network will be overseen by NASEM’s Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats and an executive committee co-chaired by Robert Groves of Georgetown University and Mary T. Bassett of Harvard University. More information is available in the press release announcing the network’s formation. One of the first public activities under the new network is the creation of a weekly archive of public opinion survey data and reports related to COVID-19. COSSA will continue to report on SEAN’s activities as more information becomes available.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 12), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Golden Goose Award Seeks Nominations Related to COVID-19 Research

The Golden Goose Award, which typically recognizes federally funded research that may initially sound odd, obscure, or serendipitous, but ends up having a major impact on society, is planning to use its 2020 Awards to highlight federally funded research that has had a significant and demonstrable impact in responding to COVID-19. More information on nomination criteria is available on the Golden Goose website. The deadline for nominations is May 22, 2020.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 12), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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