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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)

NSF Creates Resource Webpage for Information on COVID-19

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has established a resource webpage compiling relevant information about NSF activities addressing the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. Some of the resources available on the webpage include a FAQ about NSF awards, a document describing NSF’s implementation of an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directive, a Dear Colleague Letter inviting research proposals through the Rapid Response Research (RAPID) program, and a list of  NSF deadlines that have changed due to COVID-19. This resource page is frequently updated to include the most relevant and accurate information.

In addition, on March 30, leadership from the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) circulated a letter to the social and behavioral science community providing additional details on NSF’s COVID-19 resources and encouraging proposals from SBE fields.

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

NIH Seeks Revision Applications to Support Firearms Injury Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released a Notice of Special Interest soliciting competitive revision applications to programs that could potentially include firearms injury and mortality prevention research. This notice comes in the wake of NIH receiving $12.5 million dollars for research studying firearms injury and mortality prevention in the fiscal year (FY) 2020 Appropriations bill (see COSSA’s analysis). Like all federal agencies, NIH is legislatively restricted from using its funding for certain activities such as advocating for gun control policies, but is able to fund research topics aiming to understand the underlying risk factors and variables. Topics cited by the NIH notice as within the permitted scope of research include:

  • Improving the ability to identify at-risk individuals for firearm injury and mortality;
  • Developing healthcare procedures to accurately screen for risk of firearm injury and mortality;
  • Understanding factors that are associated with firearm injury and mortality risk and resilience;
  • Developing evidence-based interventions to address risk; and
  • Assessing the public health and criminal justice systems’ approaches towards the reduction of firearm injury and mortality.

Revision applications will be accepted through May 15, 2020. More information is available on the NIH website.

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

France Córdova Ends Tenure as NSF Director; Timeline for Confirming New Director Unclear

National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France Córdova finished her six-year term as the head of the agency on March 31, 2020. Córdova, an astrophysicist and former Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of California at Santa Barbara, served as NSF Director since 2014. A farewell message from Córdova to NSF staff is available on the NSF website.

In January 2020, the White House announced the nomination of Sethuraman Panchanathan to succeed Córdova as NSF Director (see COSSA’s previous coverage). However, no hearing has yet been scheduled for Panchanathan’s consideration for the Senate-confirmed position due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Due to these complications in the schedule, the timeline for the Senate to consider Panchanathan for NSF Director remains unclear. COSSA will provide more details as they become available.

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

NSF Releases Report on Social Science Doctoral Recipients

The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), the principal statistical agency within the National Science Foundation (NSF), released a report on “Doctorate Recipients in the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE).” The report is part of a series of profiles highlighting trends in education related to each of NSF’s seven research directorates. The SBE report presents data on doctorates received in psychology, economics, sociology, political science, and other social sciences from NCSES’s Survey of Earned Doctorates and Survey of Doctorate Recipients. The full report and associated data tables are available on the NCSES website.

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

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