Blog Archives

NSF Seeks Candidates for SBE Leadership Positions

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has initiated a national search for its next Assistant Director for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate. Dr. Arthur Lupia has served in this position since 2018. The Assistant Director for SBE oversees the directorate, which includes the Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, the Division of Social and Economic Sciences, the SBE Office of Multidisciplinary Activities, and the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.

The search committee will be led by Robert Groves, Executive Vice President and Provost at Georgetown University, and is seeking candidates with outstanding leadership capabilities; a deep sense of scholarship; a grasp of the issues facing the social, behavioral, and economic science communities, especially in the areas of education, innovation, and fundamental research. Details and contact information for the search committee can be found here. Nominations will be accepted through September 13, 2021.

In addition, two of SBE’s divisions are accepting applications for Division Director roles. NSF is seeking candidates for the Director of the Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) within SBE. The BCS Director is responsible for providing leadership and direction to the Division and implementing overall strategic planning. The BCS Division provides funding for research that helps advance scientific knowledge about the brain, human cognition, language, social behavior, and culture. Applications must be submitted by August 19. The position requirements can be found on USAJobs. In addition, as previously reported, the position of Director of the Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES) within SBE is also accepting applications through August 6.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 3), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

House Committee Approves FY 2022 Funding Bills

Over the last few weeks, the House Appropriations Committee began considering its annual appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2022, including the bills that fund federal science, research, and data activities. At least on the House side, the FY 2022 bills are in many ways a stark contrast to the spending measures we have seen over the last several years. This is for a few reasons. First, the spending caps that have placed limits on discretionary spending over the last decade expired in FY 2021 and new ones have not yet been set. Second, it is common to see major new investments in the first year of a new Presidential Administration, especially when the House and Senate are of the same party. It is a time for the new Administration and Congress to make their priorities known and set a marker for future directions. It is likely that spending caps will come back into play in the coming year or so, leaving many to believe that FY 2022 is the best opportunity to seek long-desired increases and make down payments for future budget goals.

While in many cases the House bills fall short of the amounts requested by the Biden Administration, federal science agencies would still see major budget increases nearly across the board, with the exception of DOD research.

House leaders have announced plans to bring a minibus package containing the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Agriculture bills, among others, to the House floor the week of July 26. While plans for the Commerce, Justice, Science and Defense bills have not yet been announced, House leaders have not ruled out considering other appropriations bills at the same time. Of course, this is just half the story. Timing for consideration of the FY 2022 spending bills in the Senate remains unclear as that chamber is currently focused on infrastructure legislation and emergency funding to support Capitol security. Senate appropriators hope to begin consideration of their bills before the August recess; however, subcommittee and committee markups have not yet been scheduled.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the House FY 2022 funding bills for federal agencies and programs important to the social and behavioral science research community. COSSA will continue to report on the status of FY 2022 funding legislation as the process unfolds.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 20), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

HOT TOPIC: Competing Visions – The NSF for the Future Act and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act

In June 2021, the House and Senate advanced separate versions of legislation to enhance U.S. innovation and global competitiveness. The approaches taken by the two bills, however, differ dramatically. The Senate bill focuses squarely on ways to harness and in some cases alter the nation’s scientific assets to better compete with China. The House bill, on the other hand, doubles down on the nation’s existing, proven scientific leadership and proposes additional investments to push the U.S. research enterprise—particularly the National Science Foundation—into new directions.

Despite the many differences between them, some parallels can be found; for example, both propose establishing a new directorate at the National Science Foundation focused on technology development and translational research, and both measures include substantive provisions related to research security and STEM education. Beyond that, though, many unresolved differences remain.

Read on for COSSA’s in-depth analysis and comparison of provisions in the National Science Foundation for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260) that are of most relevance to the social and behavioral science community.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 6), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Senate Passes Sweeping U.S. Competitiveness Legislation, Includes Endless Frontier Act

On June 8, the Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) (S. 1260). The 2,300 page bill was originally introduced in the spring as the Endless Frontier Act, which sought to shore up U.S. leadership in key technology areas—specifically with respect to China—and to enhance “tech transfer” for scientific research funded by the federal government. Since then, hundreds of amendments have been offered, resulting in a substantially altered package that now incorporates several additional, far-reaching bills.

The original proposal authorized $100 billion over five years specifically for a new Technology and Innovation Directorate at the National Science Foundation. The Senate-passed version now includes a total of $29 billion over five years for the directorate and also includes authorized funding increases for NSF’s budget overall (the original bill only included funding for the new directorate, which concerned many in the research community). The substantial decrease in funding to the proposed directorate is the result of several successful amendments seeking to more widely distribute funding to other federal agencies with missions related to key technological advancement, particularly the Department of Energy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Department of Defense. The massive USICA bill now includes provisions pertaining to NSF, DOE, DOD, Department of Education, Department of Commerce, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, and others.

The NSF provisions of the USICA attempt to bridge some of the divide between the Senate proposal and the NSF for the Future Act that is currently workings its way through the House (see related article). For example, the amended Senate bill includes similar language related to research capacity building for “developing universities,” including minority-serving institutions, promoting STEM education in rural areas, and supporting early-career researchers, among other provisions. However, the two bills remain far apart in their general handling of NSF funding and policy directions. It remains to be seen whether a conference between the House and Senate will be attempted or if another path forward will emerge.

COSSA will be producing an in-depth analysis of the two competing NSF bills. Check back for details.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 22), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Biden Administration Release FY 2022 Budget Request; Read COSSA’s Analysis

On May 28, the Biden Administration released details of its fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request to Congress. A “skinny budget” with preliminary details was issued on April 9. As with any first budget of a new presidential administration, the blueprint outlines several shifts in priority from the last administration as well as proposals for new activities and initiatives. Of particular note, the Biden budget underscores the President’s commitment to science as a means for addressing large societal challenges, such as climate change, racism, and, of course, pandemic recovery. To this end, the budget request proposes some fairly major changes to U.S. research agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. In each case, the President wishes to create new entities within the agencies tasked with bridging the gap between research findings and the market, whether that be cures, therapeutics, new technologies, or other innovations or inventions.

Another major theme in the budget relates to equity and inclusion, particularly within the scientific enterprise. Significant increases are sought for programs and initiatives that would build capacity at research institutions by supporting, evaluating, and promoting best practices for fostering diverse and inclusive research environments.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the President’s proposals as they pertain to social and behavioral science research.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 8), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

NIH Working Group Presents Report on Opportunities in Basic Behavioral and Social Science Research

During the May 20-21 meeting of the Council of Councils at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a Working Group on Basic Behavioral and Social Science Research (bBSSR) presented a report analyzing past support for basic research on behavioral and social phenomena related to health and areas ripe for additional study. The working group report, co-chaired by the Director of NIH’s Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) Dr. Bill Riley, looks at the historical trends of basic research at NIH and identifies potential trans-NIH opportunities to fill gaps in the agency’s efforts. The presentation touched on several trends in NIH basic behavioral and social science research, including the proportions of basic to applied research and neuroscientific and non-neuroscientific research at NIH over time. Several research topics were identified as needing more basic research including behavioral, cognitive, and social neuroscience; sleep and sex; epigenetics; infectious diseases; social interactions and health; maintaining behavior change; health processes; and the science of science. Although some concerns were raised by Council members about the absence of research on abuse and neglect, the findings of the report were generally well received. The report is available in full on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 25), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

House Science Committee Discusses NSF’s Future

As previously reported, leaders of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee introduced the National Science Foundation for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) earlier this spring. Over the last several weeks, the Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a series of hearings to discuss the bill and, more generally, “Advancing Research for the Future of U.S. Innovation.” On April 28, the hearing featured NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan and Chair of the National Science Board Ellen Ochoa. A second hearing featuring stakeholders of NSF funding, including representatives from research universities and the private sector, occurred on May 6. COSSA issued a statement in support of the NSF for the Future Act on May 7, applauding the bill for its comprehensive approach to strengthening NSF, enhancing its budget, and preserving its role as the premier U.S. basic science agency.

Throughout both hearings, Subcommittee members from both parties expressed strong bipartisan support for NSF and especially its basic science mission. The NSF for the Future Act proposes creation of a new Science and Engineering Solutions Directorate, which would be tasked with supporting more “use-inspired” research and translating basic research findings into solutions to address societal challenges. Both Democratic and Republican members of the Subcommittee stressed the importance of taking a careful and deliberate approach in setting up a new function so as to not harm NSF’s gold-standard basic research activities. Several members made references to the very different approach being taken in the Senate with the Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260), which is seeking to invest $100 billion directly into a new technology-focused directorate while making few other investments in the agency. See COSSA’s full coverage for details. Subcommittee Chair Haley Stevens (D-MI) made special note of the unique opportunity before us in which there is strong bipartisan support for significantly enhancing NSF’s budget.

Over the two hearings, Republican lawmakers focused their remarks and questions on the need to enhance competition with China and address research security concerns. Several argued that the best way to do that is through regular, strategic investments over the long term as opposed to a one-time infusion of funding that will be impossible to sustain, again a nod to the Endless Frontier Act.

In addition, several lawmakers discussed the need to enhance the U.S. scientific workforce and asked about NSF’s efforts to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many also discussed the need for additional investment in STEM education at the elementary level and for better mentoring and graduate training.

Recordings of both Science Committee hearings are available on the committee’s website. The Research and Technology Subcommittee plans to mark up the NSF for the Future Act on May 13, after which it will go to the full committee for consideration. In addition, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has scheduled a markup of the Endless Frontier Act for May 12. It remains unclear how or if the relevant sides plan to work out the differences between their respective bills. Stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage for more as these bills move forward.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 11), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Today is Social Science Advocacy Day; Advocates Highlighting Social Science for Recovery and Beyond

2021 Advocacy Day headerOn April 27, more than 60 social and behavioral scientists are participating in COSSA’s seventh annual Social Science Advocacy Day, meeting virtually with Members of Congress and their staff about the many ways social and behavioral science can help the nation recover from the pandemic and tackle the other major challenges it faces. Advocates from 21 states will conduct approximately 80 meetings with Congressional offices. They are equipped with materials that help to explain the unique contributions the social and behavioral sciences make to recovery and to address other pressing national issues; these factsheets 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 made this year’s virtual event possible. Sincere thanks to the American Anthropological Association, American Educational Research Association, American Political Science Association, American Psychological Association, American Sociological Association, Boston University, Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Midwest Political Science Association, National Communication Association, Ohio State University, Penn State Social Science Research Institute, Population Association of America, SAGE Publishing, Society for Personality and Social Psychology, University of Arizona, University of California, Irvine School of Social Sciences, and Wiley.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 27), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Biden Preliminary FY 2022 R&D Proposals Rely on “DARPA” Model

On April 9, the Biden Administration released preliminary, high-level details of its fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request, referred to as a “skinny budget.” At this stage, details are only available for Cabinet-level departments and a handful of other “major” agencies, with limited details about some agencies within the departments. For example, it includes preliminary details for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but not for the Census Bureau. Full budget details will be released in the coming months. In the meantime, however, Congress is proceeding with the FY 2022 appropriations process without the Administration’s full proposals. Appropriators in both chambers have already held a number of hearings on the FY 2022 budget and are continuing to schedule appearances from federal officials, including the Director of the National Science Foundation, who is scheduled to testify before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees this week.

Unsurprisingly, given the Biden Administration’s early priorities, the request’s most prominent new research initiatives are proposed in the areas of climate change and public health. Two of the largest R&D proposals in the budget aim to replicate the model implemented by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), which aims to catalyze high-risk high-reward projects across government, academia, and industry. The request proposes a $1 billion investment in the existing Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E) and in the creation of a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate (ARPA-C) within the Department of Energy. These agencies would collectively support “high-risk, high-reward solutions for adaptation and resilience against the climate crisis and enable robust investments in clean energy technology research and development.” In its budget requests, the Trump Administration repeatedly proposed eliminating ARPA-E.

The Biden Administration proposes a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The budget proposes $6.5 billion for this new division, which is intended to “drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs” and would initially focus on diseases including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. The request also proposes an additional $2.5 billion in funding for NIH’s other institutes and centers, which combined with the ARPA-H funding would be a total of $51 billion for the agency ($9 billion above its FY 2021 level).

The request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposes a total of $8.7 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion above the FY 2021 level. It includes a $100 million Community-Based Violence Intervention initiative that would, in collaboration with the Justice Department, implement evidence-based community violence interventions. The Administration also proposes doubling current funding for gun violence prevention research at the CDC and NIH, which would provide $25 million to each agency in FY 2022.

The Administration’s request for the National Science Foundation (NSF) would provide the agency with $10.2 billion, a 20 percent increase from its FY 2021 enacted level. The request would increase funding for NSF’s Research and Related Activities account, which houses most of its research directorates, including the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), by $1.6 billion, bringing it to a total of $9.4 billion. The request also repeats the proposal from the Biden Administration’s infrastructure plan (see related article) to establish a new directorate for technology and innovation.

The proposal would provide a total of $100 million in funding (a roughly 50 percent increase over FY 2021) for programs aiming to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in the sciences. According to the proposal, the funding would “support curriculum design, research on successful recruitment and retention methods, development of outreach or mentorship programs, fellowships, and building science and engineering research and education capacity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions.” In addition, the Administration proposes a $500 million increase ($1.2 billion total) for climate science and sustainability research. The proposal would fund a portfolio of research including on the “social, behavioral, and economic research on human responses to climate change.”

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 13), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Science Committee Releases NSF Reauthorization Proposal

On March 26, the House Science Committee on Science, Space, and Technology released the text of the National Science Foundation for the Future Act, its proposed reauthorization legislation for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bipartisan bill was introduced by Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), along with Reps. Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Michael Waltz (R-FL), the Chair and Ranking Member respectively of the Subcommittee on Research and Technology.

Although Rep. Lucas had previously introduced a competing bill, the Securing American Leadership in Science and Technology Act, in the press release accompanying the Committee’s bill, he thanked Rep. Johnson for “working with me to craft a bipartisan bill” and for “including provisions on research security, which has been a growing concern for Republicans on our Committee.”

The Science Committee’s bill would set funding targets for the NSF’s budget over the course of the next five fiscal years (FY), bringing the agency’s overall budget from its current $8.5 billion to $18.3 billion by FY 2026. However, as an authorization bill, the legislation can only identify desired targets; Congressional appropriators would still need to act each year to enact funding increases for the agency. The bill would also establish a new research directorate within NSF, the Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions (SES), which, according to the Committee’s press release would enable NSF to “take big risks and experiment with new approaches to accelerating the translation of science and technology into solutions to society’s major challenges.” While in some ways similar to the Technology Directorate proposed in the Endless Frontier Act introduced in the previous Congress, the scale of the SES Directorate’s budget would be more proportionate to NSF’s overall budget (as opposed to being multiple times larger) and the Directorate would set its own scientific priorities rather than adhering to a list set by Congress.

The NSF for the Future Act includes a number of provisions that would affect the social science community, including language that the social, behavioral, and economic sciences (SBE) should be actively included in NSF cross-cutting and interdisciplinary activities like the Convergence Accelerators, Big Ideas, and Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure. COSSA will release a full analysis of the bill and its potential impact on the social sciences to COSSA members later this week.

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

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