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National Science Board Accepting Nominations

Nominations are being sought for new members of the National Science Board (NSB), the policy-making body of the National Science Foundation (NSF) that also serves as an independent advisor to the President and Congress on federal science policy. The Board consists of 24 members who serve staggered six-year terms, with the NSF director serving as a 25th ex officio member. Nominations are considered by the NSB, which makes recommendations to the White House and new members of the Board are appointed by the President. For the incoming class of 2020-2026, the NSB is particularly interested in individuals with expertise in enterprise risk management, sociology, applied math and statistics, STEM education, among others. The complete list and other selection criteria are available in the NSB’s Dear Colleague letter. More information on the nomination process is available on the NSB website. Nominations are due by May 31, 2019.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 14), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NSF Convergence Accelerator Seeks Next Topics

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a request for information (RFI) on future topics for the NSF Convergence Accelerator. The Convergence Accelerator is a new capability within NSF to accelerate use-inspired, convergence research in areas of national importance via partnerships between academic and non-academic stakeholders and is currently focusing on the Big Ideas of Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF) and Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR). The main purpose of this RFI is to seek ideas for future NSF Convergence Accelerator tracks. NSF seeks suggestions for future tracks that build on the foundational research developed by the HDR and FW-HTF Big Ideas that should be suitable for a multidisciplinary, convergence research approach, should address a grand challenge problem, and should have the potential to leverage partnerships between industry and academic researchers. Researchers and other stakeholders at higher education institutions, industry, non-profits and government entities are all invited to submit concepts for future NSF Convergence Accelerator tracks.

More information about the RFI can be found in the NSF’s Dear Colleague letter. More information about the Convergence Accelerator can be found on the NSF’s website.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 14), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

White House Announces New Joint Committee on U.S. Research Community

On May 6, the White House National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) announced the formation of a new Joint Committee led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) addressing the issues and burdens facing the U.S. research community. Specific issues the Joint Committee will address are administrative burdens on federally funded research, rigor and integrity in research, inclusive and equitable research settings, and protecting American research assets. The Joint Committee will also engage with the research community for input on policy making. The Joint Committee’s membership will be comprised of OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, National Science Foundation Director France Córdova, National Institute of Standards and Technology Director Walt Copan, and Undersecretary for Science at the Department of Energy Paul Dabbar. More information about the NSTC can be found on the OSTP website.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 14), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Minerva Initiative Releases 2019 Funding Opportunity Announcement, Topics of Interest

The Minerva Research Initiative, the social science research program administered jointly by the Office of Basic Research and the Office of Policy at the U.S. Department of Defense, has released its 2019 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and its 2019 topics of interest. The Minerva Research Initiative supports university-based, unclassified research in areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security policy. Research topics of interest for 2019 include: peer/near-peer statecraft, influence, and regional balance of power; power, deterrence, and escalation management; alliances and burden sharing; economic interdependence and security; economic viability, resilience, and sustainability of logistics infrastructure; multi-domain behavioral complexity and computational social modeling; autonomy, artificial intelligence, machine ethics, and social interactions; models and methods for understanding covert online influence; and automated cyber vulnerability analysis.

White papers in response to the FOA are due by June 20 and full proposals must be submitted by September 26. More information can be found on the Minerva Research Initiative website.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 14), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

OBSSR Releases Revised Definition of “Behavioral and Social Sciences Research”

The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has completed its revision of NIH’s definition of “behavioral and social sciences research” (BSSR) (see previous coverage) after crowdsourcing input from stakeholders. The new definition begins:

“Behavioral and social sciences research at the National Institutes of Health involves the systematic study of behavioral1 and social2 phenomena relevant to health3.

1“Behavioral phenomena” refers to the observable actions of individuals or groups and to mental phenomena such as knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, motivations, perceptions, cognitions, and emotions.

2“Social phenomena” refers to the interactions between and among individuals, and to the characteristics, structures, and functions of social groups and institutions, such as families, communities, schools, and workplaces, as well as the physical, economic, cultural, and policy environments in which social and behavioral phenomena occur.

3”Health” refers to state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (as per WHO).”

The complete definition is posted on the OBSSR website. In an email message announcing the revision, the Office said that “some suggestions, although not reflected in the BSSR definition, will be used to for future blog post topics to share in-depth discussion of the areas of science that are included in the BSSR at NIH.”

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 14), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

OBSSR Seeks Examples of Behavioral and Social Science Accomplishments

The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is seeking contributions from the stakeholder community of examples of noteworthy advances in health that would not have been possible without the behavioral and social sciences. The project will be hosted on a crowdsourcing platform that will allow anyone to contribute an idea or vote on the best submissions. OBSSR is seeking as broad a list as possible—achievements do not need to have been funded by NIH or represent recent advances. More details are available in a blog post from OBSSR Director Bill Riley. Ideas can be submitted through the IdeaScale platform through July 31.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 30), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NSF Seeks Nominations for Advisory Committees

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued its annual call for recommendations for membership to its various advisory committees and technical boards. These committees advise NSF’s offices and directorates on program management, research direction, and policies impacting the agency.  Committees of particular interest to the COSSA community include the Advisory Committee for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences and the Advisory Committee for Education and Human Resources. Guidelines for recommendations and committee contact information can be found here. Recommendations for membership are maintained for 12 months.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 30), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

OMB Seeks Feedback on Length of Executive Branch Comment Prohibition for Release of Economic Indicators

Statistical Policy Directive No. 3 recommends Executive Branch employees refrain from commenting on the release of principal federal economic indicators for 60 minutes after their release. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is seeking public comment on whether that 60-minute window is still appropriate given the many changes in the information landscape since the policy directive was issued in 1985. OMB is not considering changes to the embargo on the release of any information or comment about federal statistics before their official release by the statistical agencies, only whether policy officials should be allowed to comment earlier than 60 minutes after their release.

The text under consideration is:

“Except for members of the staff of the agency issuing the principal economic indicator who have been designated by the agency head to provide technical explanations of the data, employees of the Executive Branch shall not comment publicly on the data until at least one hour after the official release time.”

The goal of this language was to draw a sharp distinction between “the release of the statistics and their accompanying explanation and analysis, on the one hand, and the more general type of policy-oriented comment which is a function of the official responsible for policy making, on the other.” However, given that statistical agencies can now publicly release their data on their own websites and disseminate them through social media, and that these releases can be reported on nearly instantaneously by the media, OMB is seeking guidance on whether 60 minutes is still the right length of time to avoid comments from policy officials within the Executive Branch (or if the window is still necessary at all). It should be noted that it is the position of the White House Counsel that the President does not qualify as an “employee” of the Executive Branch, but any officials within Executive Branch agencies who disseminate his comments (retweeting him, for example), would be subject to these rules.

Full details on the request for comments are available in the Federal Register notice. Comments must be submitted by June 10, 2019.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 16), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Administration Releases FY 2020 Budget Request; Read COSSA’s Analysis of Social Science Impacts

On March 11, the Trump Administration released a preview of its Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget request to Congress, with additional details unveiled the following weeks. The budget was delivered about a month late, largely due to the partial government shutdown that paralyzed much of the federal workforce throughout December and January.

The President’s request proposes steep cuts to all corners of the federal budget, with the exception of national security-focused agencies which would see significant boosts. When considering the Trump Administration’s proposals for FY 2020 it is important to remember that the budget request remains a political, largely symbolic document outlining the Administration’s priorities for the years ahead. It is important to take note of the policy priorities contained within the budget as they could shape some legislative and/or executive actions later in the year; however, as is always the case, Congress has the final say over the appropriation of funds and, in the case of the FY 2020 budget request, legislators are not likely to share the President’s funding priorities, especially cuts to research, the elimination of entire agencies, and reductions in domestic funding more generally.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the President’s proposals as they pertain to social and behavioral science research. You can read our supplement on the Department of Commerce budget request (which was released late) here.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 2), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

IES Requests Comment on Proposed Priorities

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the Department of Education, has released a request for comment on proposed priorities for IES. The Federal Register Notice explains that the request is part of the process required by the agency’s authorizing legislation to receive public comment on priorities the Director of IES recommends to the National Board for Education Sciences.

Proposed priorities fall into two categories: A Focus on Outcomes and Increasing Dissemination and Use. The Outcomes priority includes specific outcomes at the preschool, K-12, and postsecondary levels of education. The Dissemination and Use priority includes a renewed focus on enhancing the experience of What Works Clearinghouse users, increasing outreach to teachers, and investing in postsecondary programs that support education researchers.

Comments will close on May 28, 2019. More information can be found in the Federal Register.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 2), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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