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)

Sethuraman Panchanathan Confirmed as Next NSF Director

On June 18, the Senate confirmed Sethuraman Panchanathan to be the 15th Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), an agency that had been without a Senate-confirmed director since France Córdova’s term expired in March. Panchanathan, who was nominated to lead the agency in January, holds a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering and serves as the Executive Vice President of Knowledge Enterprise Development and as Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Arizona State University. He has also served on the National Science Board since 2014.

The timeline for the Senate to consider Panchanathan’s nomination was delayed significantly by the transition away from in-person hearings caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the interim, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Kelvin Droegemeier served as Acting Director of NSF until Panchanathan was confirmed (see previous COSSA coverage for more details). More information on Panchanathan’s confirmation is available on the Senate website.

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

White House Launches Search for Chief Statistician

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has posted a vacancy announcement for the position of Chief Statistician of the United States, following the departure of former Chief Statistician Nancy Potok at the end of 2019. The Chief Statistician oversees OMB’s Statistical Policy and Science Branch and is responsible for implementing cross-agency data and statistics policies, including the Federal Data Strategy and the implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. The window for applications closes on June 29.

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

IES Announces Changes, Requests Applications for Several of its Largest Grant Programs

On May 27, Mark Schneider, the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) within the Department of Education, issued an announcement of new Requests for Applications (RFA) for several of the Institute’s largest grant programs for fiscal year (FY) 2021 as well as updates to some of the Institute’s programs. The Requests for Applications are mainly in the Education Research and Training Grant Programs and in Special Education Research and Training Grant Programs. A full list of the RFAs are available on the IES website.

Some of the programmatic changes mentioned in the announcement include higher funding limits to meet growing demands for dissemination and the reorganization of the programs at the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) into fewer, broader program topics. According to the announcement, the changes were guided by the Institute’s Standards for Excellence in Education Research (SEER). Director Schneider’s announcement and more information are available on the IES website.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 9), 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)

NIMH Announces New Strategic Plan, Approves Concept Clearances

During a public meeting on May 19, the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), the advisory body to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), released a new Strategic Plan for Research for the Institute. The strategic plan outlines NIMH’s research goals and intended priorities for the next five fiscal years, and cites four high-level goals to guide the Institute:

  • Define the Brain Mechanisms Underlying Complex Behaviors
  • Examine Mental Illness Trajectories Across the Lifespan
  • Strive for Prevention and Cures
  • Strengthen the Public Health Impact of NIMH-Supported Research

In addition to the strategic plan announcement, NAMHC heard and approved several concept clearances for potential new research, including some that would incorporate social and behavioral science. Summaries of these concept clearances and a recording of the NAMHC meeting will be available on the NIH website shortly.

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

NIH to Host Matilda White Riley Honors Virtually on June 8

On June 8, the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will host the annual Matilda White Riley Behavioral and Social Sciences Honors in a virtual capacity. The public event will feature a lecture from the 2020 Matilda White Riley Honors awardee, Toni Antonucci, Program Director and Research Professor in the Life Course Development Program at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. It will also recognize the accomplishments of several early stage investigators and their research in the behavioral and social sciences. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of OBSSR and the first year the Matilda White Riley Honors will be hosted virtually.

Registration and more information about the Matilda White Riley Honors is available on the OBSSR website.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 26), 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)

Census Launches COVID-19 Household Survey

The Census Bureau has applied for and received emergency authorization from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to conduct a new household survey to collect information about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on American families. The COVID-19 Household Pulse Survey will ask individuals about their employment status, spending patterns, food security, housing, physical and mental health, access to health care, and educational disruption during the coronavirus pandemic. The survey was developed with input from agencies across the federal statistical system, including the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Data collection began on April 23 and will continue for 90 days. The Census Bureau plans to begin releasing data weekly (after an initial two-week processing period) in order to provide the most value to policymakers as they develop and implement response and recovery strategies. More information on the survey is available on the Census Bureau website.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 22), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

White House Announces Appointments for PCAST and NSB

On April 20, the White House announced the appointment of several individuals for key positions in the Administration including two seats on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and four seats on the National Science Board (NSB), the advisory body to the National Science Foundation (NSF). This wave of nominations for PCAST follows an announcement from White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director and PCAST Chair Kelvin Droegemeier that several future PCAST nominees would come from academia rather than industry (read previous COSSA coverage for more details). The two nominees for PCAST are:

  • Abraham “Avi” Loeb, Professor and Chair of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University
  • Daniela Rus, Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The four nominees for the NSB are:

  • Aaron Dominguez, Provost and Professor of Physics at the Catholic University of America
  • Dario Gil, Chief of Research at IBM
  • Sudarsanam Babu, Professor and Chair of Advanced Manufacturing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Roger Beachy, President of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Roger Beachy currently serves on the NSB and has been reappointed for a second term while the three other appointees would be new members of the advisory body. Since there are eight members with expiring terms on the NSB this year, four more appointments have yet to be announced.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 22), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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