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A Word from COSSA…

Dear Friends:

Our thoughts are with everyone feeling the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. As the world adjusts to a new—and hopefully temporary—way of life, lawmakers in Washington are scrambling to keep the economic and public health consequences from spiraling out of control. Consistent with any major crisis, the next several weeks, if not months, will see nearly all other policymaking grind to a halt as resources (time, personnel, and money) are diverted appropriately to tackling the challenge before us.

This leaves many unknowns about the fate of science funding and policymaking for the foreseeable future. In response, COSSA has decided to transition its Social Science Advocacy Day, originally designed as a “fly-in” for advocates to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, into a “phone-in.” In addition, we elected to delay the Advocacy Day phone-in by one month to April 27-28, 2020. If you are registered for Social Science Advocacy Day and have not been contacted by the COSSA team about these changes, please contact me.

We have outlined below some of the latest developments related to funding and policy important to the social and behavioral science community in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional Congressional, Federal Agency, and community updates are also provided.

Finally, we recognize that in these trying times, the activities of Washington might be the farthest from your mind. We will continue to work on behalf of the social science research community during this uncertain time and report on new developments. But more importantly, we hope you will take care of yourself, your family, and your community.

Be well,

Wendy Naus
COSSA Executive Director


Congressional leaders have been busy working to address the COVID-19 outbreak. On March 6, the President signed into law an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill to address the pandemic. The funding measure included support for state and local health agencies, vaccine and treatment development, and loans for affected small business. More emergency funding and policy measures are expected from Congress.

The outlook for Congressional productivity, particularly on annual appropriations, is uncertain. On March 12, the House and Senate Sergeant at Arms directed the Capitol, as well as the House and Senate Office Buildings to be closed to the public and many Congressional offices have moved to working remotely.

It is too early to tell how the pandemic will affect science funding next year, let alone federal research support this year (check out the next section on how federal agencies are responding to the coronavirus). The COVID-19 crisis coupled with the upcoming Presidential election all but guarantees that fiscal year 2021 will begin on October 1 under a cloud of uncertainty and very likely a continuing resolution.

Federal Agencies

Federal research agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have released a series of informational documents and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it affects daily research functions at those agencies.

The NIH FAQ includes links to the most recent information available about how the epidemic will affect practices for existing research awards, affect future awards, how NIH can assist funded researchers with sunk costs for travel or conference fees, and how to best impose isolation in larger research institutions.

The NSF FAQ offers similar information about changes to research practices, but also includes several pieces of information about coronavirus research funding opportunities. NSF has released a Dear Colleague Letter providing guidance on submitting research proposals seeking to treat or prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The NSF Dear Colleague Letter states that research proposals related to COVID-19 may be submitted through existing funding opportunities at NSF, but also invites submissions through the Rapid Response Research (RAPID) funding mechanism for quick-response and time-sensitive events. The NSF FAQ offers additional information about the logistics and special considerations of these coronavirus research proposals. The Dear Colleague Letter and more information about RAPID is available on the NSF website.

Useful Resources

General COVID-19 Resources:

University/Educator Resources:

Federal Agency Resources:

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 17), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

COSSA Submits Testimony in Support of Social Science at NSF, Census, NIJ and BJS

Each year, COSSA submits outside witness testimony to the Congressional Appropriations subcommittees responsible for funding federal agencies important to the social sciences. Earlier this month, COSSA submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies calling for robust funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Bureau of Justice Statistics, and Census Bureau in fiscal year (FY) 2021. All of COSSA’s FY 2021 testimony will be posted on the COSSA website.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 17), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Work on FY 2021 Appropriations Slows as Congress Works to Address Coronavirus Outbreak

While it is expected that Congress will soon put its regular appropriations work on hold as work shifts to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, committees have begun hearing testimony from Trump Administration officials on federal agencies’ budget proposals for fiscal year 2021. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Kelvin Droegemeier testified in front of the House Science Committee on the Administration’s budget for research and development (see previous coverage), NIH leadership testified before the House Appropriations Committee (see related article), and Department of Commerce leadership testified before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. No appropriations bills have been released or considered by the Committees. As the process moves forward—if it moves forward—COSSA will produce analyses of the proposals important to the social and behavioral sciences.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 17), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Holds Hearing on NIH Budget for FY 2021

On March 4, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) held a hearing on the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for fiscal year (FY) 2021. Witnesses included NIH Director Francis Collins; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Director Diana Bianchi; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Director Gary Gibbons; National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Ned Sharpless; and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow.

Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK), and full Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) all made glowing remarks in support of NIH and shared an optimism that the agency would receive a significant increase in its budget in FY 2021. Members of the Subcommittee questioned the witnesses on a variety of topics including NIH’s role in responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, initiatives addressing health disparities, Alzheimer’s disease research, open access of federally funded research, and several disease-specific topics. A statement from Collins and a recording of the hearing are available on the House LHHS website.

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House Science Committee Holds Hearing on FY 2021 Research and Development Budget Request

On February 27, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to review the Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request for research and development (see COSSA’s analysis of the President’s budget request). Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), was the committee’s only witness and discussed the administration’s priorities across federal science agencies.

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) expressed concern for proposed cuts to research funding at the National Science foundation (NSF), NASA, the Department of Energy, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In her opening statement, she shared that the cuts appear to be driven by an ideology in the administration that “aggressively seeks to undermine faith in science and scientists and to discount expertise at all levels of government and society.” Her fellow Democrats echoed these concerns, particularly around cuts to the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E), the role of OSTP in federal rulemaking, and the prioritization of certain programs at the expense of others within agencies, including human space flight at NASA and computer science at NSF.

Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) commended Dr. Droegemeier for prioritizing the security of U.S. research and research into so-called “industries of the future”— including artificial intelligence and 5G — in the FY 2021 research and development budget. Republicans inquired about the implementation of the Securing American Science and Technology Act and the activities of the Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE). A recording of the hearing, along with Dr. Droegemeier and Chairwoman Johnson’s open statements are available on the Science Committee’s website. Ranking Member Lucas’ opening statement is available on the Science Committee Republican’s website.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 3), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

COSSA Urges Advocates to Oppose FY 2021 Budget Cuts to Social Science

Last week, COSSA released an action alert urging social science advocates to reach out to their Congressional representatives to oppose the steep cuts proposed by the Administration in its FY 2021 budget request (see COSSA’s analysis). COSSA created a menu of letters that stakeholders can send to their Members of Congress to share their priorities for the coming year. COSSA’s TAKE ACTION page allows advocates to quickly send a letter to your Senators and Representative and tell them why they care about supporting the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Education Sciences and International Education, or the federal statistical system.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 18), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Administration Plans to Eliminate DOD Social Science Research Program

While the majority of the details of the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request were made public the week of February 10 (read COSSA’s analysis), full details for some agencies and departments—including the Department of Defense (DoD)—were delayed until the following week.

The DoD budget request reflects over $5 billion in cuts made as a result of the FY 2021 Defense-Wide Review. The FY 2021 Defense-Wide Review is a major DoD initiative led by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper “to improve alignment of time, money, and people to [National Defense Strategy] priorities,” including finding budget cuts at DoD. The Department of Defense (DoD), the largest contributor to federal research and development expenditures, supports research and development, along with many other programs, through what are known as Defense-Wide accounts. The three branches of the military, the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy, also individually contribute to funding research and development and were not affected by the review.

The cuts identified by the review affected programs across the Department—from warfighting support, to logistics, to personnel and benefits—and did not spare Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation, through which the bulk of research and development funds are administered.

The FY 2021 DoD budget request directs the Basic Research Office to discontinue funding the Minerva Research Initiative (MRI), a university-based social science research program that seeks to “improve DOD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the U.S.”

The Minerva Research Initiative is not provided with a dedicated appropriation from Congress, but rather receives funds from the Navy, the Air Force, and the Basic Research Office (a Defense-Wide account), totaling about $13 million each year. In FY 2019 and FY 2020, MRI also received an additional $2 million in the final DoD appropriations bill to support research on “peer/near-peer competition” and “foreign malign influence,” respectively.

MRI includes three primary components: (1) a university-based social science basic research grant program, funded in partnership with Air Force and Navy University Research Initiatives; (2) the Defense Education and Civilian University Research (DECUR) Partnership program for professional military education (PME) institutions; and (3) a collaboration with the United States Institute of Peace to award research support to advanced graduate students and early career scholars working on security and peace. As a result of the Defense-Wide Review, the Department recommends ending the Minerva Research Initiative in FY 2021.

The budget request clarifies that researchers participating in the 2019 award cycle of the first two components will be notified that new awards will not be made and existing awards will be terminated early (note: MRI awards operate on calendar years, not fiscal years). Additionally, the request says that awards will made in response to the university funding opportunity announcement on the topics of peer/near-peer competition and foreign malign influence, which Congress provided funding for in FY 2019 and FY 2020. However, new awards on these topics will only be made with directly appropriated congressional funds and Service (military branch) contributions – which, together, make up about a third of the MRI budget. No additional awards will be made on any other topics formerly supported by the MRI.

No additional details, including when awards will be terminated, are provided. Because the Minerva Initiative does not receive a direct Congressional appropriation, the Department has the authority to terminate it unless Congress affirmatively acts to prevent it (unlike the majority of the changes proposed in the President’s budget request). Should Congressional appropriators wish to maintain the MRI, they would need to include specific language in their FY 2021 appropriations bill stipulating that funding for the program continue.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 18), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Administration Releases FY 2021 Budget Request; Read COSSA’s Analysis

On February 10, the Trump Administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request to Congress. In a significant departure from last year’s budget rollout, the FY 2021 budget is not delivered on the heels of a major government shutdown, like we saw in early 2019. Given that Congress passed its FY 2020 appropriations bills in December 2019—albeit nearly 3 months late—the President’s FY 2021 budget can be compared to FY 2020 enacted levels, providing a clearer look at the potential implications of the Administration’s proposals. However, the positive news largely ends there with respect to the Trump Administration’s budget for science and education, as well as nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending generally.

As previously reported, a bipartisan budget agreement was passed in August providing much needed relief from tight budget caps on discretionary spending for FY 2020 and FY 2021. The deal allowed Congress to increase funding to federal agencies across the FY 2020 appropriations bills; however, for FY 2021, the deal raises the caps by only 0.4 percent, setting this year up to be a particularly challenging one (though admittedly still better than under the pre-deal spending caps). What’s more, while President Trump signed the budget deal into law last summer, his FY 2021 budget request seeks to cut nondefense discretionary spending by 6 percent. In other words, the Administration is proposing a cut of $37 billion to NDD even though the budget deal negotiated by the White House last year would allow for an increase of $2.5 billion in FY 2021.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the President’s proposals as they pertain to social and behavioral science research. You can also read our supplement on the planned elimination of the Minerva Research Initiative at the Department of Defense (see related article).

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 18), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Still Time to Register for February’s Headlines Webchat on the President’s Budget Request

headlines bannerCOSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly Headlines webchat on Thursday, February 13. The COSSA team will break down the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer your questions. The February chat will feature a deep dive discussion on the Trump Administration’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2021, scheduled to be released on February 10. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Impeachment, Natural Disasters and Elections Signal Difficult Road Ahead for FY 2021 Appropriations

The second session of the 116th Congress kicked off earlier this month, and while the new year did not begin with a historically-long government shutdown as it did in 2019, Congress still faces a myriad of challenges to completing spending bills for the coming fiscal year. The Senate is expected to begin the impeachment trial of President Trump on January 21, which will fully occupy the Senate’s time, leaving significant legislative debates until after the trial concludes, which could be several weeks. While the House has finished its impeachment business, a backlog of work remains for the lower chamber, including passing disaster funding for earthquake-stricken Puerto Rico.

Another hurdle to finishing spending decisions on time is the 2020 general election. The majorities in both the House and Senate are at stake and leadership in both chambers have included significant amounts of recess time into their 2020 schedules, ensuring facetime with constituents but leaving less time to legislate. Despite the many challenges that lie ahead, Congressional leaders have continued to express interest in completing fiscal year (FY) 2021 spending bills before the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

Continue to follow the COSSA Washington Update for news on FY 2021. If you are a COSSA member, you can hear further analysis on what challenges and opportunities COSSA anticipates in the coming year in the recording of January’s COSSA Headlines.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 21), Update, Volume 39 (2020)


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