Blog Archives

Nita Lowey, House Appropriations Chair, Announces Retirement

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) announced on October 10 that she will not seek reelection next year after 31 years in Congress. Rep. Lowey became the first woman to Chair the House Appropriations Committee when the Democrats took control of the House in 2019.

Her retirement will lead to a reshuffling among senior Democratic appropriators. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), who currently chairs the Energy and Water Subcommittee, is the most senior Democrat on the committee after Lowey, has said that she would be interested in chairing the Committee, but Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), current chair of the powerful Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Subcommittee, also indicated her intention to run for the role. In addition, there will be a key vacancy on the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee (which funds the National Science Foundation and the Census Bureau) as longtime senior Democrat Rep. Jose Serrano has also announced his upcoming retirement.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 15), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Senate Makes Progress on FY 2020 Appropriations for NSF, Census, NIH, Education, USDA

With the passage of a continuing resolution through Thanksgiving giving Congress some breathing room to complete fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations, the Senate Appropriations Committee has finally made progress in approving a number of its annual appropriations bills. COSSA has released analyses of three Senate bills that fund agencies important to the social and behavioral sciences:

Full coverage of FY 2020 appropriations, including analyses of the corresponding House proposals, is available on the COSSA website.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 1), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

OSTP Outlines Research Security Priorities

In a September 16 letter to the research community, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Kelvin Droegemeier described several of the office’s priorities and planned activities for protecting the security of the U.S. research enterprise. The letter expresses concern over recent efforts by some foreign powers to “exploit, influence, and undermine our research activities and environments,” and concludes that “United States policies and practices must evolve thoughtfully and appropriately” to guard against such attacks. In particular, the letter notes that talent-recruitment programs sponsored by foreign governments have been at the center of several attempts to exploit U.S. research.

OSTP is seeking to discourage and prevent breaches of research ethics, including: “failure to disclose required information such as foreign funding, unapproved parallel foreign laboratories (so-called shadow labs), affiliations and appointments, and conflicting financial interests,” as well as “conducting undisclosed research for foreign governments or companies on United States agency time or with United States agency funding, diversion of intellectual property or other legal rights, and breaches of contract and confidentiality in or surreptitious gaming of the peer-review process.”

The Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE), a committee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) established in May 2019, plans to take up these issues. In addition to the Research Security subcommittee, which will focus on foreign-power interference in U.S. research, JCORE also contains subcommittees on Safe and Inclusive Research Environments, Research Rigor and Integrity, and Coordinating Administrative Requirements for Research.

JCORE’s Research Security work will focus on four areas: (1) Coordinating outreach and engagement with federal agencies and other stakeholders to increase awareness of foreign interference in research; (2) Establishing and coordinating disclosure requirements for participation in federally-funded research enterprise (such as the requirements recently circulated by NSF and NIH); (3) Developing best practices for academic research institutions; and (4) Developing methods for identification, assessment, and management of risk in the research enterprise.

OSTP plans to hold meetings at academic institutions over the coming months to further discuss this issue with stakeholders. COSSA will provide more details as they become available.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 17), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

White House Outlines FY 2021 R&D Budget Priorities

On August 30, Acting Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Russell Vought, with Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issued a joint memorandum to federal agency and department heads on “FY 2021 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities.” The memo lays out five key White House priorities as agencies begin working on their budget submissions for the next fiscal year and five “high-priority crosscutting actions” for agencies to maximize success in the science and technology enterprise. This is the first set of R&D priorities released under the leadership of Dr. Droegemeier, who was confirmed as OSTP director in January.

The FY 2021 memo shares priorities with previous Administration guidance, including acknowledging the important role of science and technology to America’s global leadership and emphasizing national security, American energy and environmental leadership, medical innovation, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and space exploration as research and development priorities. While the priorities are similar to those included in the FY 2019 and FY 2020 memos, the FY 2021 memo includes more details about ongoing Administration activities, including The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan, and the Federal Data Strategy.

The memo also includes five actions for agencies to take in order to maximize success in the science and technology enterprise. These direct agencies to build and leverage a diverse, highly skilled American workforce; create and support research environments that reflect American values; support transformative research of high risk and potentially high reward; leverage the power of data; and build, strengthen, and expand strategic multisector partnerships.

Additional details can be found in the memorandum.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 3), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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)

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