Blog Archives

SEAN Releases New Guidance on Protective Behaviors to Stem COVID-19

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) (see COSSA’s previous coverage) has released a new rapid expert consultation, Encouraging Adoption of Protective Behaviors to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19. The guidance, which draws on research from communication, social psychology, and behavioral economics as well as lessons learned from successful public health campaigns such as tobacco prevention and seatbelt use, offers a set of strategies to make adoption of preventive behaviors more likely as well as risk communication strategies. It is available both as a short infographic and as a more detailed report.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

National Academies Launch Study on COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has launched a fast-track study to develop a framework for planning the equitable distribution of vaccines against COVID-19. The study, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is responsible for producing a consensus report that considers the following questions:

  • “What criteria should be used in setting priorities for equitable allocation of vaccine?
  • How should the criteria be applied in determining the first tier of vaccine recipients? As more vaccine becomes available, what populations should be added successively to the priority list of recipients? How do we take into account factors such as:
    • Health disparities and other health access issues
    • Individuals at higher risk (e.g., elderly, underlying health conditions)
    • Occupations at higher risk (e.g., health care workers, essential industries, meat packing plants, military)
    • Populations at higher risk (e.g., racial and ethnic groups, incarcerated individuals, residents of nursing homes, individuals who are homeless)
    • Geographic distribution of active virus spread
    • Countries/populations involved in clinical trials
  • How will the framework apply in various scenarios (e.g., different characteristics of vaccines and differing available doses)?
  • If multiple vaccine candidates are available, how should we ensure equity?
  • How can countries ensure equity in allocation of COVID-19 vaccines?
  • For the US, how can communities of color be assured access to vaccination?
  • How can we communicate to the American public about vaccine allocation to minimize perceptions of lack of equity?
  • What steps should be taken to mitigate vaccine hesitancy, especially among high-priority populations?”

During the open session of the committee’s first meeting on July 27, National Academy of Medicine President Victor Dzau announced that the committee is planning to produce a discussion draft released for public comment by early September, hold a public workshop to collect additional feedback, and issue its final recommendations by early October. The study committee is co-chaired by Helene D. Gayle, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, and William H. Foege, Emeritus Presidential Distinguished Professor of International Health, Emory University. More information about the study is available on the National Academies website.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

SEAN Releases Rapid Consultation on Evaluating Types of COVID-19 Data

The Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN), a collaboration between the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Science Foundation (NSF) (see previous coverage), has released its first rapid expert consultation in response to COVID-19. The report, Evaluating Data Types: A Guide for Decision Makers using Data to Understand the Extent and Spread of COVID-19, is intended to assist leaders in understanding the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. It was released alongside an interactive tool to help policymakers explore the information in more detail. The consultation summarizes the benefits and drawbacks of seven specific COVID-19 measurements that decision-makers can consider as they use these measurements to respond to the outbreak: (1) confirmed cases, (2) hospitalizations, (3) emergency department visits, (4) reported confirmed COVID-19 deaths, (5) excess deaths, (6) fraction of viral tests that are positive, and (7) representative prevalence surveys. It also outlines five criteria decisionmakers can use in evaluating such data: representativeness, potential for systematic under- or over-estimation, uncertainty, time range, and geographical area. More about SEAN is available here.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 23), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

National Academies Holds Webinar on COVID-19 and Extreme Environmental Events

The National Academies Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Board on Environmental Change and Society and Resilient America Roundtable convened a webinar on May 13 to discuss the social science aspects of potential emergencies that compound the current COVID-19 crisis with environmental hazards, such as fires, hurricanes, flooding, and heatwaves. The event featured experts from federal government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as universities, and nonprofit and community organizations. Panelists discussed the challenges of responding to emergencies and natural disasters amidst a pandemic and the need for social science to shed more light on how individuals and communities are likely to respond to such situations. A recording of the event is available on the NASEM website.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 26), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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)

National Academies Begins Series of Virtual Discussions on the Research Community’s Responses to COVID-19

On April 9, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Board on Higher Education and Workforce (BHEW) hosted the first event in a new virtual series discussing post-secondary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion series, which will take place over the course of several weeks, will bring together leaders from academia, industry, government, and civil society to address new developments in COVID-19 responses in different sectors of the research community. Each virtual event will touch on a specific topic on how researchers and their institutions can help support public health efforts.

The April 9 event, which focused on how researchers help the national response efforts, featured a panel discussion among Lisa Hirshhorn, Professor of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University; Michael Wells, Fellow at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University and creator of the COVID-19 National Scientist Volunteer Database; Amy McDermott, science journalist for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Matthew Golden, Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington and Director of the Public Health Seattle King County HIV/STD program. Topics brought up during the discussion included the role of scientists as communicators to policymakers and health care professionals, barriers to COVID-19 research and what to be done to mitigate them, the curation of the COVID-19 National Scientist Volunteer Database, and long-term strategies for mobilizing scientists against COVID-19.

Future events in the discussion series will focus on topics such as how labs can shift research agendas, how scientists can be crowd-sourced to improve public information, how to provide faster policy advice, how to volunteer for the response effort, the implications of the global nature of the pandemic, and possible long term implications of postsecondary responses to the pandemic. More details about each event in the series and recordings of previous series discussions are available on the NASEM Eventbrite page.

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

National Academies Commemorate “Endless Frontier” Anniversary

The National Academy of Sciences, the Kavli Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation held a symposium “The Endless Frontier: The Next 75 Years in Science” on February 26. They symposium discussed the future development of science in the US, in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Vannevar Bush’s landmark report Science: The Endless Frontier, which led to the creation of the National Science Foundation (which turned 70 this year).

Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), as well as Director of the White House Office of Science of Technology Policy (OSTP) Kelvin K. Droegemeier, all reminded the audience of challenges from China and mentioned the importance of securing the US’s Global leadership in sciences by adopting long-term perspectives and a national comprehensive approach. Sen. Alexander expressed confidence in the US leadership in science for the next 75 years, citing the particularly robust increase in federal funding for National Institute of Health (NIH) as well as increased investments in other science agencies. Sen. Alexander also highlighted the importance of energy research and suggested doubling investments in this area.

Rafael Reif, President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), suggested adopting competitive strategies, such as investing in science education even after formal education ends, stapling “green cards to the diplomas” of excellent international students, and integrating social science in research agendas from the very beginning.

During her address to attendees, France A. Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), shared that NSF has funded many scientific projects that might have seemed nonsensical at first but ultimately turned out to be successful and essential. Córdova also noted NSF’s history of supporting STEM students of all backgrounds and increasing the representation of diverse communities in STEM.

Other panels included focused on “The Evolving Scientific Research Enterprise,” featuring a discussion on how the scientific enterprise must adapt over the next 75 years; “Science Engagement with the Public,” featuring actor Alan Alda and a discussion of the value of science communication; “America’s Unique Advantage: The Role of Government and Philanthropy in Supporting Our Research Enterprise;” “Evolution of the Government-University Research Partnership;” and “From Basic Research to Innovation and Economic Growth, and the Next 75 Years.” The complete agenda and a recording of the event can be found on the National Academies’ website.

This article was contributed by COSSA’s spring intern, Tracey Lan of New York University Shanghai.

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

National Academies Launches Committee on Science and Innovation Leadership for the 21st Century

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy and Committee on Science, Technology, and Law have established an ad hoc committee on “Science and Innovation Leadership for the 21st Century: Challenges and Strategic Implications for the United States.” The committee will produce a consensus report with recommendations on how to “1) draw attention to the most overlooked challenges, based on current research on U.S. competitiveness and trade, technology, and innovation policies; 2) develop a future agenda for needed research in areas that have not been fully explored; 3) identify current government infrastructure that hinders the United States’ ability to address these challenges; and 4) produce recommendations for the federal government to effectively meet these challenges.” The Committee’s first workshop took place on October 24, with a second workshop scheduled for December 6. More information is available on the National Academies website.

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Posted in Issue 23 (November 26), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

National Academies Releases Review of Minerva Initiative

The National Academies of Sciences’ Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences released Assessing the Minerva Research Initiative and the Contribution of Social Science to Addressing Security Concerns, a consensus study report assessing the impact, procedures, and direction of the Minerva Research Initiative. The Minerva Research Initiative is a grant program of the Department of Defense (DOD) that funds unclassified, university-based, basic research in the social sciences relevant to national security. The report discusses the program’s challenges and successes and offers recommendations to strengthen the program’s structure and help broaden its reach and usefulness.

The report includes recommendations for both the Minerva Research Initiative and the Department of Defense. It encourages DOD to ensure the Initiative has a leader with stature in a full-time, civil service position, to evaluate whether additional staff are needed, and to reduce the administrative burden on Minerva-funded grantees by streamlining the IRB process. The recommendations for the Initiative include refining its approach to topic selection, creating a strategic outreach plan, creating a centralized and public-facing database of projects, and broadening its engagement with the research community, including reaching out to early career researchers. Additionally, the study recommends the Initiative work to develop relationships with potential supporters of the program, including leadership at DOD, and to create a more robust monitoring and evaluation for grants. The complete report can be downloaded from the National Academies’ website.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 29), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

National Academy of Medicine Launches Healthy Longevity Global Competition

The National Academy of Medicine, with collaboration from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health and several other global research organizations, has launched the Healthy Longevity Global Competition. This international competition seeks for researchers in the social sciences and other fields to submit research ideas aiming to extend the healthy human lifespan. The other participating global organizations are the Academia Sinica of Taiwan, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, EIT Health, the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development, the Ministry of Health and National Research Foundation of Singapore, and UK Research and Innovation.

The competition will consist of three award phases:

  • Catalyst Phase: Up to 500 awards worth $50,000 each will be issued as seed funding for innovative research ideas.
  • Accelerator Phase: Select awardees from the Catalyst Phase who have demonstrated significant progress and innovation will be chosen to receive awards worth $500,000 or more.
  • Grand Prize: One or more prizes of up to $5 million will be awarded to breakthrough achievements in the extension of the healthy human lifespan.

Applications for the Catalyst Phase open in January 2020. More information about the competition can be found on the Healthy Longevity Global Competition website.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 29), Update, Volume 38 (2019)


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