Blog Archives

Biden Preliminary FY 2022 R&D Proposals Rely on “DARPA” Model

On April 9, the Biden Administration released preliminary, high-level details of its fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request, referred to as a “skinny budget.” At this stage, details are only available for Cabinet-level departments and a handful of other “major” agencies, with limited details about some agencies within the departments. For example, it includes preliminary details for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but not for the Census Bureau. Full budget details will be released in the coming months. In the meantime, however, Congress is proceeding with the FY 2022 appropriations process without the Administration’s full proposals. Appropriators in both chambers have already held a number of hearings on the FY 2022 budget and are continuing to schedule appearances from federal officials, including the Director of the National Science Foundation, who is scheduled to testify before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees this week.

Unsurprisingly, given the Biden Administration’s early priorities, the request’s most prominent new research initiatives are proposed in the areas of climate change and public health. Two of the largest R&D proposals in the budget aim to replicate the model implemented by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), which aims to catalyze high-risk high-reward projects across government, academia, and industry. The request proposes a $1 billion investment in the existing Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E) and in the creation of a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate (ARPA-C) within the Department of Energy. These agencies would collectively support “high-risk, high-reward solutions for adaptation and resilience against the climate crisis and enable robust investments in clean energy technology research and development.” In its budget requests, the Trump Administration repeatedly proposed eliminating ARPA-E.

The Biden Administration proposes a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The budget proposes $6.5 billion for this new division, which is intended to “drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs” and would initially focus on diseases including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. The request also proposes an additional $2.5 billion in funding for NIH’s other institutes and centers, which combined with the ARPA-H funding would be a total of $51 billion for the agency ($9 billion above its FY 2021 level).

The request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposes a total of $8.7 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion above the FY 2021 level. It includes a $100 million Community-Based Violence Intervention initiative that would, in collaboration with the Justice Department, implement evidence-based community violence interventions. The Administration also proposes doubling current funding for gun violence prevention research at the CDC and NIH, which would provide $25 million to each agency in FY 2022.

The Administration’s request for the National Science Foundation (NSF) would provide the agency with $10.2 billion, a 20 percent increase from its FY 2021 enacted level. The request would increase funding for NSF’s Research and Related Activities account, which houses most of its research directorates, including the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), by $1.6 billion, bringing it to a total of $9.4 billion. The request also repeats the proposal from the Biden Administration’s infrastructure plan (see related article) to establish a new directorate for technology and innovation.

The proposal would provide a total of $100 million in funding (a roughly 50 percent increase over FY 2021) for programs aiming to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in the sciences. According to the proposal, the funding would “support curriculum design, research on successful recruitment and retention methods, development of outreach or mentorship programs, fellowships, and building science and engineering research and education capacity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions.” In addition, the Administration proposes a $500 million increase ($1.2 billion total) for climate science and sustainability research. The proposal would fund a portfolio of research including on the “social, behavioral, and economic research on human responses to climate change.”

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 13), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

NIH Releases Minority Health and Health Disparities Strategic Plan for 2021-2025

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released its strategic plan for 2021 through 2025 to advance minority health and health disparities research across all NIH institutes, offices, and centers. The strategic plan, which was developed with input across the NIH and the minority health and health disparity research community, lays out goals and strategies for the agency to advance additional scientific research, support research-adjacent activities, and expand outreach and strategic communications on minority health and health disparities. These goals and strategies include:

  • Promoting research to understand and improve the health of racial and ethnic minority populations.
  • Advancing scientific understanding of the causes of health disparities.
  • Developing and testing interventions to reduce disparities.
  • Creating and improving scientific methods to support health disparities research.
  • Supporting trainings and career advancement to enhance diversity and promote minority health and health disparities research.
  • Strengthening capacity to conduct minority health and health disparities research.
  • Ensuring representation of minority and other health disparity populations in NIH-funded research.
  • Promoting evidence-based community engagement of best practices.
  • Cultivating and expanding the community of minority health and health disparities researchers and advocates.

Both the strategic plan and an interactive webpage to explore the contents of the plan are available on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 13), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

NIH Presents Report on Racism in Science, Launches UNITE Initiative to End Structural Racism in Biomedical Research

During a meeting of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) on February 26, 2021, NIH discussed new and ongoing efforts to eliminate agency structures perpetuating racism in the biomedical research enterprise. During the meeting, the ACD’s Working Group on Diversity (WGD) presented its Report on Racism in Science, a document that had been in development throughout the past year in the wake of nationwide protests condemning White supremacy and racial inequity, especially as it affects Black members of the scientific community. The WGD report presents several strategies and recommendations for the ACD to consider in addressing racism in science, organized into the four following themes:

  • Acknowledge racism and inequity & provide support to Black members of the scientific community
  • Conduct research to understand systemic racism in research studies and the scientific workforce
  • Monitor acts of racial bias and change the culture surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Make structural changes to mitigate the impact of racism and implicit bias in the scientific workforce

Although there was hesitation from some ACD members about the emphasis on racism against Black scientists instead of all under-represented groups in science, the findings and recommendations of the report were met with wide praise by the ACD. The report is available on the ACD website.

In addition to the WGD report, one new NIH effort discussed at length during the meeting was the establishment of the UNITE Initiative, a series of committees with membership across the NIH’s institutes and centers charged with addressing structural racism within NIH-supported science and identifying opportunities and recommendations to improve agency practices. The UNITE Initiative consists of five committees each aiming to address one of the following objectives:

  • U – Understanding stakeholder experiences through listening and learning
  • N – New research on health disparities, minority health, and health equity
  • I – Improving the NIH culture and structure for equity, inclusion, and excellence
  • T – Transparency, communication, and accountability with NIH’s internal and external stakeholders
  • E – Extramural research ecosystem: changing policy, culture, and structure to promote workforce diversity

Aligning with the stated objectives of the WGD report and the UNITE Initiative, NIH has released a request for information (RFI) seeking stakeholder input on NIH approaches to advance racial equity, diversity, and inclusion in the biomedical research enterprise and expand research on health disparities. Comments may address aspects of the biomedical workforce, policies and partnerships at NIH, significant gaps in research areas, or any additional suggestions for the NIH to consider. Comments are due April 9, 2021 on the NIH submission website.

A recording of the ACD meeting is available on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Lawmakers Reintroduce RISE Act

On February 5, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act. As previously reported, the RISE Act seeks to provide funding relief to federal science agencies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would authorize $25 billion in emergency relief, including $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $3 billion for the National Science Foundation. Funding would be used to support non-COVID-related research that has been impacted or shuttered by the closure of labs resulting from the pandemic. This legislation is different from the $1.9 trillion COVID package discussed elsewhere in this issue; if it is to be enacted, it will need to be considered separately, likely as part of future talks on COVID relief.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 16), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

“Why Social Science?” Focuses on COVID-19 Vaccination

why-social-scienceThe latest Why Social Science? post comes from the authors of the recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) report “COVID-19 Vaccination Communication: Applying Behavioral and Social Science to Address Vaccine Hesitancy and Foster Vaccine Confidence,” who write about the evidence-informed best practices communities should use when sharing information about the vaccination process for COVID-19. Read it here and subscribe.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

NIH Launches New COVID-19 Research Website

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a new website for COVID-19 research information, according to a January 19 blog post by NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Mike Lauer. According to Lauer, the website includes key information about the agency’s vaccine and diagnostics programs for COVID-19 as well as searchable information on funded research categorized by state, institution, Congressional district, and other notable fields. The website also includes the latest public-facing information on COVID-19 vaccines and testing, information about participating in clinical trials, and other Federal agency resources on COVID-19. The website is available here.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 19), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

NIMHD Funding Research on Vaccine Hesitancy and Health Disparities

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released a Notice of Special Interest announcing a new funding opportunity for research on hesitancy to participate in vaccines among populations that experience health disparities. The notice seeks submissions on a variety of social and behavioral research questions including evaluating strategies to increase vaccination rates among target communities and methods to address barriers of receiving vaccines among health disparate communities, especially those with a higher risk of experiencing vaccine hesitancy. The first available due date for applications is February 5, 2021, with the notice expiring on January 8, 2022. More information is available on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 5), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Nominations Open for 2021 Matilda White Riley Honors

The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is accepting nominations for a social or behavioral scientist to deliver the keynote address at the Matilda White Riley Behavioral and Social Science Honors on May 5, 2021. The Matilda White Riley Honors are an annual event recognizing transformative work in the fields of social and behavioral science along with early-career researchers. This year is the second time the event will be hosted virtually. Nominees should have a research career that has “advanced behavioral and social scientific knowledge in areas within NIH’s mission and Dr. White Riley’s vision.” More information is available on the OBSSR website. Nominations may be emailed to Erica Spotts by January 29, 2021.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 5), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

NIH Releases Report on COVID-19 Vaccine Communication

A panel of social and behavioral scientists coordinated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released a report titled “COVID-19 Vaccination Communication: Applying Behavioral and Social Science to Address Vaccine Hesitancy and Foster Vaccine Confidence.” The report, led by the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), outlines research-based strategies to communicate the importance of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine while addressing the challenges of vaccine hesitancy and misinformation. The strategies laid out in this report are largely based on the fundamentals of communication research while including specific considerations for individuals at highest risk of contracting the virus such as healthcare workers and older adults.

Some of the strategies included in the report are:

  • Using accurate and transparent messaging without exaggeration;
  • Provoking positive emotions rather than negative emotions in messaging;
  • Corresponding through trusted sources of information to the target audience;
  • Framing vaccination as a social norm;
  • Reaching out early to those that are hesitant about vaccines to help form their views; and
  • Build trust slowly with those who mistrust vaccines through compassion and empathy with the goal to encourage vaccinations in the future.

The report is available on the OBSSR website.

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Posted in Issue 25 (December 22), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

NIMH Seeking Guidance for Research on Preventing Black Youth Suicide

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released a request for information (RFI) seeking input from stakeholders on the prevention of suicide among Black children and adolescents. The RFI seeks information on approaches to understanding suicide risk among Black youth, research needed to expand evidence-based prevention programs and services, and input on additional topics that may be relevant to preventing Black youth suicide. This request follows up on the recommendations included in a 2019 report from the Congressional Black Caucus examining ways to address Black youth suicide and mental health.

Comments will be accepted through January 15, 2021. More information is available on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 24 (December 8), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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