Blog Archives

NICHD Releases 2020 Strategic Plan

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) released their 2020 strategic plan, a guiding document laying out the institute’s research priorities for the next five years. Earlier this year, COSSA submitted comments on behalf of the social and behavioral science community addressing a draft version of the strategic plan.

The NICHD strategic plan lays out five main research objectives:

  • Understanding the molecular, cellular, and structural basis of development;
  • Promoting gynecologic, andrologic, and reproductive health;
  • Setting the foundation for healthy pregnancies and lifelong wellness;
  • Improving child and adolescent health and the transition to adulthood;
  • Advancing safe and effective therapeutics and devices for pregnant and lactating women, children, and people with disabilities.

The full strategic plan and more information can be found on the NICHD website.

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

NIH Evaluates Strategy on Countering Foreign Influence in Research

On September 25, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released three reports addressing efforts to combat the prevalence of foreign influence in research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The OIG reports evaluate three tactics used in NIH’s strategy in securing research from foreign influence in institutional reporting of foreign financial interests and affiliations, reviewing financial conflicts of interest in extramural research, and securing the peer review process from foreign influence. The OIG reports each provide several recommendations to the NIH on how to improve these initiatives.

The strategy comes as a follow up to NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins’ August 2018 letter to over 10,000 institutions expressing concern over foreign influence in research settings. You can find previous  coverage on a Congressional hearing concerning foreign influence at NIH 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)

National Science Board Releases Report on the Skilled Technical Workforce

On September 12, the National Science Board (NSB), the advisory body for the National Science Foundation (NSF),  held a briefing on Capitol Hill announcing the release of a report on the Skilled Technical Workforce (STW), the sector of working individuals in science and engineering fields who do not hold bachelor’s degrees. NSB Chair Diane Souvaine and NSB Member Victor McCrary hosted the briefing.

The report analyzes the current STW and offers policy recommendations to improve the well-being of the sector. The report recommends improving messaging about opportunities in the STW, fixing gaps and silos in data concerning the STW, analyzing federal investments in the workforce, and building  partnerships between STW stakeholders and academic institutions. More information about the report can be found on the NSB website.

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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)

IES Director Seeks Input on Topic Areas, Announces Possible Request for Applications

Mark Schneider, the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the research, evaluation, and statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Education, announced in a blog post on August 13 that he is considering three new topic-specific requests for applications (RFAs) and seeking comment on the topics around which IES research is structured.

The three proposed off-cycle RFAs are “using state longitudinal data systems to measure long-term outcomes,” “using NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] process data,” and “systematic evaluation of widely used math and reading programs.” The blog post includes more details about the proposed RFAs and a request that the community provide input into whether they are worthwhile and whether the challenges that come with these large questions are surmountable.

Additionally, Schneider is seeking input on the 13 topic areas within the National Center for Education Research (NCER) and the 12 topic areas within the National Center for Special Education Research. In particular, he is interested in whether any of the topic areas are no longer necessary to be funded, and if any other topic areas are missing from the two centers.

Input should be sent directly to the IES director at Mark.Schneider@ed.gov. The blog post can be read on the IES website.

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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)

NIH Establishes Research Network on Opioid Use Disorder in the Criminal Justice System

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) announced the awarding of 12 grants to form the Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (JCOIN), a network of institutions performing research on opioid use disorder in criminal justice settings. JCOIN will connect researchers, many of whom are social and behavioral scientists, with criminal justice stakeholders to help improve practices in responding to opioid abuse in high risk criminal justice institutions. The research institutions in JCOIN include treatment centers and universities – some of which are COSSA members. The network includes the following institutions:

  • New York State Psychiatric Institute
  • Baystate Medical Center
  • Friends Research Institute, Inc.
  • Texas Christian University
  • New York University School of Medicine
  • Brown University
  • University of Chicago
  • Chestnut Health Systems, Inc.
  • University of Kentucky
  • Yale University
  • George Mason University (as an un-funded coordinating body)

More information about JCOIN may be found on the NIDA website.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 6), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

White House Announces Winners of Early Career Awards in Science and Engineering

On July 2, the White House released a list of recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award recognizes scientists and engineers in the early stages of their research careers who show exceptional promise for the future of scientific leadership. Several social scientists were named among the recipients, showcasing expertise in fields such as economics, education, linguistics, public policy, psychology, sociology, and others. The full list of award recipients can be found on the White House website.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 23), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NSF Releases Dear Colleague Letter on Research Protection

The Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague Letter on July 11 summarizing efforts at the agency to address security risks to the U.S. science and engineering enterprise. The letter explains that while international collaboration is still a priority of NSF, they are instituting policies to ensure NSF research is protected from foreign interference and other security threats.

The letter outlines some upcoming and proposed policy changes related to research security. The imminent plans include changes to the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide to include clarifications of reporting requirements for support from NSF, both current and pending, as well as professional appointments. The draft Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide is currently open for comment in the Federal Register. Additionally, the agency is issuing a policy clarifying that NSF personnel and detailees working at the agency through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (or IPAs) cannot participate in foreign government talent recruitment programs.

The letter also includes a proposal, likely to take effect in January 2020, requiring grantees to use an electronic format for submission of biographical sketches, including disclosure of all appointments.

Lastly, NSF has commissioned the independent scientific advisory group JASON to conduct a study to assess risks and recommend possible practices for NSF and its awardee organizations to achieve the best balance between openness and security of science. More information and the Dear Colleague Letter can be found on the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 23), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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