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Remembering James Jackson (1944-2020)

jacksonDr. James S. Jackson, renown social psychologist and Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, passed away on September 1. A pioneer in national and international surveys of Black populations, Dr. Jackson dedicated his career to understanding racial and ethnic influences on life course among African Americans across the lifespan.

He was a recognized leader and advocate for the social and behavioral sciences, evidenced by his appointments to national leadership positions and committees, including several advisory councils of the National Institutes of Health, the Board of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and countless others. He was appointed to the National Science Board by President Obama in 2014, on which he served for six years and chaired the Committee on External Engagement until earlier this year.

Dr. Jackson served as COSSA President in 2013-2014. “Despite his active research and teaching responsibilities and service on countless advisory bodies and committees, James continued to generously give of himself, his time and energy,” said COSSA Executive Director Wendy Naus. “As our President, James did not hesitate to offer his assistance to me as I tried to navigate being a new executive director in 2014. I am eternally grateful for having known James.”

Dr. Jackson left a lasting mark on social and behavioral science research and on COSSA. If you would like to leave a comment or remembrance, you may do so here.

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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)

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)

House Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2021 Funding Bills

During the week of July 13, the House Appropriations Committee completed its marathon markups of its 12 annual appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2021, making way for consideration by the full House of Representatives; the relevant subcommittees advanced their respective measures the week prior.

Despite the semblance of “regular order,” the outlook for final FY 2021 spending bills is still very much up in the air as lawmakers continue to grapple with pandemic relief negotiations and as the November elections approach. In addition, the House bills—which were written by the Democrats—include several funding and policy provisions that will be non-starters for the Republican-controlled Senate. For example, one area of contention between the parties is whether to use the FY 2021 spending bills to provide additional coronavirus relief (as currently included in the House Labor, HHS, Education bill), or to negotiate such measures separately (which is the position of that subcommittee’s Ranking Republican). Also threatening final passage of the FY 2021 bills is the perennial fight over whether to fund the President’s border wall; the House Homeland Security bill contains no funding for the project.

Complicating things further are the budget caps to which appropriators were forced to adhere when writing the FY 2021 bills. As previously reported, a bipartisan budget agreement was passed in August 2019 providing much needed relief from tight budget caps on discretionary spending for FY 2020 and FY 2021. The deal allowed Congress to increase funding to federal agencies across the FY 2020 appropriations bills; however, for FY 2021, the deal raised the caps by only 0.4 percent, setting this year up at the outset to be a particularly challenging one.

Timing for consideration of the FY 2021 spending bills in the Senate remains unclear. The chamber returned from a two-week recess to face ongoing COVID-19 relief negotiations and must-pass defense authorization legislation.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the House FY 2021 funding bills for federal agencies and programs important to the social and behavioral science research community.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 21), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Federal Research Agencies Release Guidance on OMB’s Administrative Flexibility Changes

In response to a June 18 memo (M 20-26) issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) extending certain administrative flexibilities to federal grant recipients as relief for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, federal research agencies have released guidance statements clarifying the memo’s implications for recipients of research grants. On June 25, both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) released nearly identical sets of guidance in response to the OMB memo explaining how the changes to the flexibilities will specifically affect recipients of their grants. The flexibilities include an allowance to continue charging salaries, benefits, and other applicable program costs to active NIH and NSF awards through September 30, 2020 (assuming that payroll costs have not already been paid through other COVID-19 relief programs), and an extension of the single audit submission deadline by up to three months.

More information is available on the NIH website and the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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)

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