Blog Archives

“Why Social Science” Can Help Plan for Returning to In-Person Work

why-social-scienceThe latest Why Social Science? post comes from Sunita Sah, of the University of Cambridge, who writes about how understanding anxiety and decision-making can help organizations plan for returning to the office while minimizing their employees’ anxiety. Read it here and subscribe.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 3), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

FROM THE ARCHIVES: NSF Creates New Education and Human Resources Directorate (June 1, 1990)

In celebration of COSSA’s 40th anniversary, we are diving into the decades of Washington Update archives to share articles from years past that resonate with today’s news.

Throughout his tenure as director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Erich Bloch has touted “education and human resources” as a major justification for increasing NSF funding. Now, with two months to go in office, Bloch has decided to reorganize the foundation’s science and engineering education efforts by creating a new Education and Human Resources Directorate (EHR). The new directorate will be headed by current NSF Senior Science Advisor Luther Williams.

The old Science and Engineering Education Directorate (SEE) and its assistant director, Bassam Shakashiri, are gone. Shakashiri will join the NSF Director’s office.

The new EHR will include all the programs of the SEE Directorate as well as the NSF programs to promote science and engineering opportunities for women and minorities and persons with disabilities, which are currently housed in the Scientific, Technological, and International Affairs Directorate (STIA). It will also have responsibility for coordinating undergraduate education efforts managed currently by the disciplinary research programs.

Pushed by Congress for years to consolidate and better coordinate NSFs endeavors in science education, Bloch is also responding to some of the recommendations made in an Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) report, “Science Education: From Grade School to Grad School.” The OTA report is often cited by NSF Senate appropriations chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

The National Science Board approved the reorganization at its May meeting. The House Science, Research and Technology Subcommittee will use an already scheduled hearing on June 7th to examine these changes in detail.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 3), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

House Committee Approves FY 2022 Funding Bills

Over the last few weeks, the House Appropriations Committee began considering its annual appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2022, including the bills that fund federal science, research, and data activities. At least on the House side, the FY 2022 bills are in many ways a stark contrast to the spending measures we have seen over the last several years. This is for a few reasons. First, the spending caps that have placed limits on discretionary spending over the last decade expired in FY 2021 and new ones have not yet been set. Second, it is common to see major new investments in the first year of a new Presidential Administration, especially when the House and Senate are of the same party. It is a time for the new Administration and Congress to make their priorities known and set a marker for future directions. It is likely that spending caps will come back into play in the coming year or so, leaving many to believe that FY 2022 is the best opportunity to seek long-desired increases and make down payments for future budget goals.

While in many cases the House bills fall short of the amounts requested by the Biden Administration, federal science agencies would still see major budget increases nearly across the board, with the exception of DOD research.

House leaders have announced plans to bring a minibus package containing the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Agriculture bills, among others, to the House floor the week of July 26. While plans for the Commerce, Justice, Science and Defense bills have not yet been announced, House leaders have not ruled out considering other appropriations bills at the same time. Of course, this is just half the story. Timing for consideration of the FY 2022 spending bills in the Senate remains unclear as that chamber is currently focused on infrastructure legislation and emergency funding to support Capitol security. Senate appropriators hope to begin consideration of their bills before the August recess; however, subcommittee and committee markups have not yet been scheduled.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the House FY 2022 funding bills for federal agencies and programs important to the social and behavioral science research community. COSSA will continue to report on the status of FY 2022 funding legislation as the process unfolds.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 20), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

FROM THE ARCHIVES: PCAST Issues STEM Education Report: Social Sciences Not Part of K-12 STEM (September 27, 2010)

In celebration of COSSA’s 40th anniversary, we are diving into the decades of Washington Update archives to share articles from years past that resonate with today’s news.

On September 15, the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) released its long-awaited report on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education. Entitled Prepare and Inspire: K‐12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) For America’s Future, the report was shepherded through PCAST by co‐chair Eric Lander, head of the Broad Institute and a major geneticist, and S. James Gates, Jr., John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, College Park. […]

According to PCAST, “STEM education, as used in this report, includes the subjects of mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics, which have traditionally formed the core requirements of many state curricula at the K‐12 level. In addition, the report includes other critical subjects, such as computer science, engineering, environmental science and geology, with whose fundamental concepts K‐12 students should be familiar. The report does not include the social and behavioral sciences, such as economics, anthropology, and sociology; while appropriately considered STEM fields at the undergraduate and graduate levels, they involve very different issues at the K‐12 level.” […]

Later, the PCAST report notes: “The dynamic nature of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics ‐ where new advances are constantly expanding our knowledge of the physical, biological, and social world ‐ has enormous implications for STEM education.” However, there is no indication that helping students understand changes in the social world by learning social and behavioral science is something that is part of STEM education.

The report calls for the federal government to create a mission‐driven, advanced research projects agency for education (ARPA‐ED) housed either in the Department of Education, in the National Science Foundation, or as a joint entity. “ARPA‐ED should propel and support (i) the development of innovative technologies and technology platforms for learning, teaching, and assessment across all subjects and ages and (ii) the development of effective, integrated, whole‐course materials for STEM education.” Once again technology will solve a national problem.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 20), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

July Headlines to Feature Deep Dive on NSF Legislation

headlines bannerCOSSA members can sign up for the monthly Headlines webchat to catch up on the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer your questions. Stick around for our deep dive discussion as we break down the House and Senate’s competing NSF reauthorization bills and what they could mean for the social and behavioral sciences. 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 14 (July 6), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

“Why Social Science?” Looks at Trans Activism and Linguistics

The latest Why Social Science? guest post comes from sociolinguist Aris Keshav who writes about the contributions trans activists have made to linguistics, and how engaging with trans activism can help shape the way we think about language. Read it here and subscribe.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 6), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Innovation Legislation Signed into Law (January 10, 2017)

In celebration of COSSA’s 40th anniversary, we are diving into the decades of Washington Update archives to share articles from years past that resonate with today’s news.

As previously reported, lawmakers worked in the final weeks of 2016 to find common ground on research innovation legislation, known as the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S. 3084), before adjourning for the year. The bill passed the Senate in early December, but did not get a House vote before lawmakers headed home for the holidays. However, given that the House had not yet officially adjourned for the year, the bill was quietly passed on December 16 in pro forma session along with a number of other bills under suspension of the rules. President Obama signed the bill into law on January 6, 2017.

The resulting law includes variety of science policy provisions covering topics such as the National Science Foundation’s merit review process, STEM education, and administrative burden, among others. In general, it is a positive bill for research, especially compared to earlier versions considered in the House. It is important to note, however, that while the original purpose of earlier legislation in the House and Senate was to authorize funding for NSF for the years ahead, agreement could not be reached on overall levels and therefore negotiators elected to keep numbers out the bill. That means that NSF’s authorization is still expired (since 2013) and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee (under the leadership of Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX)) may very well introduce another NSF authorization bill in the new Congress. COSSA will continue to follow such efforts.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 22), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

COSSA Urges Advocates to Contact Elected Officials in Support of Social Science in FY 2022

As Congressional appropriators are preparing legislation that will determine funding for federal science and data agencies for the next year, COSSA released an action alert urging social science advocates to reach out to their Congressional representatives to tell them to fight for robust investments in social and behavioral science research and data. 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 their Senators and Representative and tell them why they care about supporting the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Education Sciences, international education programs, or the federal statistical system.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 6), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Defense Secretary Proposes Closer DOD/University Connections Including More Social Science Research (April 21, 2008)

In celebration of COSSA’s 40th anniversary, we are diving into the decades of Washington Update archives to share articles from years past that resonate with today’s news.

“Too many mistakes have been made over the years because our government and military did not understand – or even seek to understand – the countries or cultures we were dealing with.” With those words in a speech to the Association of American Universities (AAU), Robert Gates, Secretary of the Department of Defense (DOD), issued a call to academia to help the U.S. return, in Arthur Schlesinger’s words, “to the acceptance of eggheads and ideas” to meet present and future national security challenges.

Gates, a former President of Texas A&M University, indicated that it was time to enhance the Defense Department’s support for university research, much of it in the social and behavioral sciences. A proposed “Minerva Initiative” is under consideration at the Pentagon that would consist of a “consortia of universities that would promote research in specific areas” and serve as repositories of open-source documentary archives[…]

The Secretary admitted that the relationship between DOD and the social sciences and humanities “for decades has covered the spectrum from cooperative to hostile.” He made clear that the key principle of all components of the Minerva consortia “will be complete openness and rigid adherence to academic freedom and integrity.” There will be no room for “sensitive but unclassified” or other such restrictions, he pledged.

He also acknowledged that part of the difficult relations between the DOD and academe stems from the Department’s “not always doing a great job of explaining what we are doing in ways that are accessible to the uninitiated.” He commented on the current Human Terrain program, which has used anthropologists, economists, historians and sociologists to help understand the culture and societies of Iraq and Afghanistan during our current military efforts there. This program has been controversial and condemned by the American Anthropological Association. Gates defended the program and suggested it has helped initiate programs that are the “key to long-term success,” but not intuitive to a military establishment that “has long put a premium on firepower and technology.”[…]

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 22), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

FROM THE ARCHIVES: On the Fast Track: NCRR Dissolved / NCATS Created by October 2011 (February 7, 2011)

In celebration of COSSA’s 40th anniversary, we are diving into the decades of Washington Update archives to share articles from years past that resonate with today’s news.

On January 14, Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent letters to [Congressional leaders] apprising them of her intent to establish the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) per the recommendation of NIH director Francis Collins and based on the recommendations from the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB). Sebelius also indicated that the “relevant NCRR functions and programs,” as appropriate, would be transferred to NCATS in FY 2011. Accordingly, noted Sebelius, NCRR [the National Center for Research Resources] “is no longer required”[…]

According to the Secretary:

“NIH has the potential to play a critical and catalytic role in advancing the translational sciences. The agency is expertly equipped to leverage its extant and emerging programs and resources to promote progress in this area. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, NIH is even better poised to deploy these resources. The provisions of the Act that authorize the NIH to establish a Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) equip the agency with flexibility to carry out therapeutic development projects. This underscores the expectation by Congress and the American public that NIH is to play a leading role in realizing the promise of translational medicine and advancing human health. . . Funding for this new organization is intended to come from existing resources of the programs that would move to NCATS. NIH will provide details of this reorganization once they have been finalized. NIH seeks to implement its plan at the beginning of FY 2012 in October 2011.”[…]

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 8), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

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