Blog Archives

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)

Data Strategy Releases Update on Implementation

The Federal Data Strategy has released an update for the first quarter of 2020 on the implementation of its 2020 Action Plan (see previous coverage). The update includes a list of the early milestones the strategy has met so far, such as the establishment of a Federal Chief Data Officers Council and Federal Data Policy Committee, as well as those that are in progress. More information is available on the Data Strategy website.

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

NSF Announces Fairness in Artificial Intelligence Collaboration with Amazon

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking research proposals for the NSF Program on Fairness in Artificial Intelligence in Collaboration with Amazon, a program seeking to support research on how to ensure fairness in artificial intelligence and machine learning. The program is partially funded by Amazon, although the company will not have a role in the award selection process. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of artificial intelligence research, many fields of the social and behavioral sciences may be supported by this program including information science, statistics, cognitive science, and psychology. Some of the research topics that may be supported include:

  • Designing fair artificial intelligence systems,
  • Ensuring transparency and accountability in artificial intelligence systems,
  • Understanding factors that affect the integrity of algorithms,
  • Developing ethical decision-making systems, and
  • Detecting biases in algorithms and artificial intelligence systems.

Proposals will be accepted through July 13, 2020. More information can be found on the NSF website.

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

Census Bureau to Add COVID-19 Questions to Business Surveys, Request Additional Time for Decennial

The Census Bureau has been granted emergency authorization from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to add questions related to COVID-19 to its business surveys. Questions to measure the impact of the pandemic will be added to five surveys: the Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories & Orders (M3) Survey; the Building Permits Survey; the Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey; the Monthly Retail Surveys; and the Quarterly Services Survey. The Census Bureau will be asking businesses whether they have temporarily closed any locations for at least one day, whether they experienced delays in their supply chains or product shipments, and whether those delays impacted revenue. In addition, the Building Permits Survey will ask permit offices whether they were unable to issue permits due to COVID-19-related disruptions, whether such disruptions created a permit backlog, and whether backlogs were cleared. In its justification to OMB, the Census Bureau said: “The added questions are designed to allow us to measure the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic upon businesses.  As Primary Economic Indicators, each of these surveys produce timely and closely-watched statistics about the health of the U.S. economy.  Given the importance of these indicator surveys and of the statistics they produce, it is imperative we measure to what extent businesses have been impacted in terms of their ability to maintain operations during this turbulent period.” The details of the request can be found on OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs website.

In addition, the Census Bureau announced that it plans to ask Congress for extra time to produce final apportionment counts for the 2020 Census. Should Congress grant the requested 120-day extension, the Bureau will extend the window for field data collection and self-response to October 31, 2020, which will allow for apportionment counts to be produced by April 30, 2021 and redistricting data by July 31, 2021. In the meantime, the Census Bureau is undertaking preparations to reopen field offices as early as June 1.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 14), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

OHRP Issues Guidance on Human Subjects Protections for Coronavirus Actions

The Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP) within the Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance for institutions and investigators conducting research in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance covers the following topics: (1) Public Health and Clinical Activities; (2) Excluded Public Health Surveillance Activities; (3) Legally Required Reporting; (4) Research Changes to Eliminate Apparent Immediate Hazards; (5) Proposing and Reviewing Study Changes; and, (6) Whether Suspensions of Research Must be Reported.  The guidance document can be accessed at on OHRP’s website.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 14), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

NIMHD Seeking Research Proposals on the Impact of the COVID-19 Outbreak on Minority Health and Health Disparities

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a Notice of Special Interest soliciting research proposals that aim to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting minority health and health disparities. In particular, the institute is interested in understanding how state and local public health policies affect health disparities, the role protective interventions may have in mitigating health disparities that COVID-19 may cause, and how behavioral or biological mechanisms may contribute to the spread of COVID-19. This notice is one of many coming out of the institutes and centers at NIH as the agency has been tapped by Congress in the COVID-19 stimulus bills to focus on research addressing the ongoing  pandemic (read COSSA’s analysis for more details).

Applications for this notice are due May 1, 2020. More information can be found on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 14), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier Named Acting NSF Director

Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), has been named the acting director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) until the Senate confirms a permanent successor to the previous NSF Director, France Córdova. Córdova finished her six-year term heading the agency in March 2020 (see previous COSSA coverage for more details). The White House announced the nomination of Sethuraman Panchanathan as NSF Director in January 2020, however the timeline for the Senate to consider Panchanathan’s nomination has been made unclear by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to his tenure as OSTP Director, Droegemeier served two terms on the National Science Board, the governing body for NSF, and nearly a decade as vice president for research for the University of Oklahoma. The news release can be found on the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 14), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Census Bureau Temporarily Suspends 2020 Field Operations, In-Person Survey Interviews

The Census Bureau has announced further adjustments to its planned 2020 decennial census operations in response to the coronavirus epidemic (see previous coverage). On March 18, Census Director Steven Dillingham announced a two-week suspension of 2020 field operations. In addition, the Bureau’s two major facilities in Jeffersonville, IN, the National Processing Center and Paper Data Capture Center East, have dramatically reduced on-site staff to the minimum necessary to continue operations. These measures were further extended by an additional two weeks, through April 15, and could be extended even longer in accordance with public health guidelines. In addition, the Census Bureau has temporarily suspended in-person interviews for its ongoing surveys, including the American Community Survey. Where possible, field workers will call participants and seek to collect information by phone. This marks the first major interruption for some of these surveys in over 50 years of data collection.

At the same time, the Census Bureau is strongly encouraging all American households to respond to the 2020 Census online—both for convenience and to minimize in-person contact. The questionnaire can be filled out here—even households who have not received or lost their Census ID code can respond by clicking “if you do not have a Census ID, click here.” The Census Bureau has also published a response rate map, updated daily, that allows users to see the self-response rate in their state, city, or census tract.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 31), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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