Blog Archives

SBE Seeks New Director for Social and Economic Sciences Division

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting applications for the position of Division Director for the Social and Economic Sciences (SES) Division within the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE). The Division Director “serves as a member of the directorate’s leadership team and as a principal NSF spokesperson for social and economic sciences.” More information on the position can be found in the Dear Colleague Letter from SBE. Applications may be submitted through USAJOBS and are being accept through August 6, 2021.

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

NSF Soliciting Nominations for 2022 Waterman Award

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting nominations for the Alan T. Waterman Award, the highest honor awarded by the NSF to early-career researchers. The annual award recognizes an outstanding young researcher, 40 years of age or younger or no more than 10 years beyond receipt of their Ph.D., in any field of science or engineering supported by the National Science Foundation. In addition to a medal, the awardee receives a grant of $1,000,000 over a five-year period for scientific research or advanced study in the mathematical, physical, biological, engineering, social or other sciences at the institution of the recipient’s choice. Recent winners representing the social and behavioral sciences include Nicholas Carnes (2021) and Kristina R. Olson (2018). More information can be found on the NSF website. Nominations may be submitted until September 20, 2021.

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

NSF Highlights Opportunities for Collaboration between Social and Computer Sciences

On June 23, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague Letter highlighting existing opportunities for collaboration at the agency’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate and Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate. The letter cites the prevalence of overlap between the fields of social science and computer science as motivation for increased collaboration and that this collaboration may be critical for addressing societal problems. The letter also notes that the SBE and CISE Advisory Committees have been discussing research areas of mutual interest which may indicate increased collaborations in the future. A list of the potential collaborative programs is available on the NSF website.

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

Senate Passes Sweeping U.S. Competitiveness Legislation, Includes Endless Frontier Act

On June 8, the Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) (S. 1260). The 2,300 page bill was originally introduced in the spring as the Endless Frontier Act, which sought to shore up U.S. leadership in key technology areas—specifically with respect to China—and to enhance “tech transfer” for scientific research funded by the federal government. Since then, hundreds of amendments have been offered, resulting in a substantially altered package that now incorporates several additional, far-reaching bills.

The original proposal authorized $100 billion over five years specifically for a new Technology and Innovation Directorate at the National Science Foundation. The Senate-passed version now includes a total of $29 billion over five years for the directorate and also includes authorized funding increases for NSF’s budget overall (the original bill only included funding for the new directorate, which concerned many in the research community). The substantial decrease in funding to the proposed directorate is the result of several successful amendments seeking to more widely distribute funding to other federal agencies with missions related to key technological advancement, particularly the Department of Energy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Department of Defense. The massive USICA bill now includes provisions pertaining to NSF, DOE, DOD, Department of Education, Department of Commerce, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, and others.

The NSF provisions of the USICA attempt to bridge some of the divide between the Senate proposal and the NSF for the Future Act that is currently workings its way through the House (see related article). For example, the amended Senate bill includes similar language related to research capacity building for “developing universities,” including minority-serving institutions, promoting STEM education in rural areas, and supporting early-career researchers, among other provisions. However, the two bills remain far apart in their general handling of NSF funding and policy directions. It remains to be seen whether a conference between the House and Senate will be attempted or if another path forward will emerge.

COSSA will be producing an in-depth analysis of the two competing NSF bills. Check back for details.

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

NSF Announces Research and Innovation Partnership with Canadian Counterpart

On June 15, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced its first formal partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada, the major Canadian federal agency for funding natural science and engineering research. The partnership is stated to focus on emerging technologies as well as equity, diversity, and inclusion within the research enterprise. NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, who has frequently cited partnerships as a priority for his tenure, stated “this partnership with our counterpart Canadian funding agency opens doorways to new possibilities for international collaboration between U.S. and Canadian researchers in areas of mutual interest and national investment, such as AI and quantum.” More information is available on the NSF website.

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

House Science Committee Advances NSF Legislation

On June 15, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee advanced the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Future Act (H.R. 2225). The next stop for the legislation is consideration by the full House of Representatives, which as of this writing has not been scheduled.

As previously reported, the NSF for the Future Act is sweeping legislation to reauthorization NSF through 2026. Most notably, the bill includes the establishment of a new research directorate, the Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions. COSSA issued a statement in support of the NSF for the Future Act on May 7, applauding the bill for its comprehensive approach to strengthening NSF, enhancing its budget, and preserving its role as the premier U.S. basic science agency.

The bill as advanced by the Committee includes several changes from the version originally introduced earlier in the spring, most notably to the levels of authorized funding. Amendments were passed increasing funding for the agency overall as well as altering the budget of the new directorate. For example, the original bill proposed that the budget of the new Science and Engineering Solutions (SES) Directorate grow to 33 percent of NSF’s total research budget by FY 2026; the revision slows the growth of the new directorate to 23 percent of total NSF research expenditures. This welcomed change would allow for additional funds to be authorized for other activities, including STEM education.

Additional provisions were added to address ongoing concerns about research security, especially with respect to China. New provisions include a prohibition on “malign federal talent recruitment programs,” development of research security training modules for federal grantees, and increased disclosure from universities around researchers’ foreign appointments, employment, and other activities.

Also of note, the House bill now includes the creation of a National Secure Data Service within NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. The bill would authorize $9 million to establish a demonstration project to develop, refine, and test models to inform the creation of government-wide data linkage and access infrastructure for statistical activities, as recommended by the U.S. Commission on Evidence Based Policy Making.

Several additional provisions were added related to STEM education, fostering a more diverse research enterprise, and authorization of research in areas of particular interest to Committee members, such as agriculture, clean water, wildfires, and others.

The latest version of the NSF for the Future Act can be viewed on the Committee website here along with all of the passed amendments. COSSA will continue to report on the progress of H.R. 2225 and other NSF-related legislation (see related article).

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

Social Scientist Nicholas Carnes Named Co-Winner of NSF’s Waterman Award

On May 11, the National Science Foundation (NSF) named two co-winners of the 2021 Alan T. Waterman Award, the agency’s highest honor for early-career scientists. One of the co-winners, Dr. Nicholas Carnes, is a social scientist from Duke University who was recognized for research on the social determinants affecting people’s pursuit of public or community service. The Waterman Award was presented to the winners at the National Science Board (NSB) meeting on May 18-19.

“Getting involved in public service is a really time-consuming and really complicated process. The challenge for scientists is understanding all the links in the chain,” Carnes stated in recorded remarks during the NSB meeting. The award also comes with a grant of $1 million for the awardee’s research over the next five years. More information about the Waterman Award is available on the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 25), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

House Science Committee Discusses NSF’s Future

As previously reported, leaders of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee introduced the National Science Foundation for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) earlier this spring. Over the last several weeks, the Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a series of hearings to discuss the bill and, more generally, “Advancing Research for the Future of U.S. Innovation.” On April 28, the hearing featured NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan and Chair of the National Science Board Ellen Ochoa. A second hearing featuring stakeholders of NSF funding, including representatives from research universities and the private sector, occurred on May 6. COSSA issued a statement in support of the NSF for the Future Act on May 7, applauding the bill for its comprehensive approach to strengthening NSF, enhancing its budget, and preserving its role as the premier U.S. basic science agency.

Throughout both hearings, Subcommittee members from both parties expressed strong bipartisan support for NSF and especially its basic science mission. The NSF for the Future Act proposes creation of a new Science and Engineering Solutions Directorate, which would be tasked with supporting more “use-inspired” research and translating basic research findings into solutions to address societal challenges. Both Democratic and Republican members of the Subcommittee stressed the importance of taking a careful and deliberate approach in setting up a new function so as to not harm NSF’s gold-standard basic research activities. Several members made references to the very different approach being taken in the Senate with the Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260), which is seeking to invest $100 billion directly into a new technology-focused directorate while making few other investments in the agency. See COSSA’s full coverage for details. Subcommittee Chair Haley Stevens (D-MI) made special note of the unique opportunity before us in which there is strong bipartisan support for significantly enhancing NSF’s budget.

Over the two hearings, Republican lawmakers focused their remarks and questions on the need to enhance competition with China and address research security concerns. Several argued that the best way to do that is through regular, strategic investments over the long term as opposed to a one-time infusion of funding that will be impossible to sustain, again a nod to the Endless Frontier Act.

In addition, several lawmakers discussed the need to enhance the U.S. scientific workforce and asked about NSF’s efforts to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many also discussed the need for additional investment in STEM education at the elementary level and for better mentoring and graduate training.

Recordings of both Science Committee hearings are available on the committee’s website. The Research and Technology Subcommittee plans to mark up the NSF for the Future Act on May 13, after which it will go to the full committee for consideration. In addition, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has scheduled a markup of the Endless Frontier Act for May 12. It remains unclear how or if the relevant sides plan to work out the differences between their respective bills. Stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage for more as these bills move forward.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 11), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

COSSA Joins Science Organizations Highlighting Diversity in STEM on “WMPD Day”

On May 12, scientific organizations, including COSSA, the Federation of Associations in Behavioral Brain Sciences, and SAGE Publishing, will observe “Understanding Diversity in STEM: WMPD Day.” The event takes its name from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics’ (NCSES) biannual report: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering. Organizations will hold events throughout the day to recognize, celebrate, and build on the contributions of women, minorities, and person with disabilities in the STEM enterprise. Scheduled activities include a kickoff event with experts from NCSES to discuss the most recent WMPD report (11 AM ET), a mid-day event from FABBS on LGBTQ+ and Multiracial Demographics in WMPD (1PM ET), and a closing event from the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and SAGE Publishing on building a more diverse and dynamic STEM workforce (4PM ET). A complete list of events is available on the WMPD Day website.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 11), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Competing NSF Bills Introduced in House and Senate

As previously reported, leadership of the House Science Committee introduced the NSF for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) on March 26. The bill seeks to reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) through FY 2026 and proposes more than doubling the agency’s budget over that period. The legislation also proposes the creation of a new research directorate, the Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions (SES), which would enable NSF to “take big risks and experiment with new approaches to accelerating the translation of science and technology into solutions to society’s major challenges” (see press release).

Meanwhile, competing legislation has been reintroduced in the Senate. The Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260), legislation that originally surfaced in 2020 by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), was reintroduced on April 20. While this bill also seeks to create a new directorate at NSF, that is largely where the similarities end between the two bills. The primary purpose of the Endless Frontier Act is to shore up U.S. leadership in key technology areas—specifically with respect to China—and to enhance “tech transfer” for scientific research funded by the federal government. To accomplish these goals, the bill would authorize $100 billion over five years for a new Technology and Innovation Directorate at NSF. Unlike the House bill, S. 1260 would not provide an overall authorization or increased funding for NSF, just the new directorate.

COSSA has prepared a side-by-side comparison of provisions relevant to the social sciences in the two bills, which is available here.

The Endless Frontier Act is scheduled for mark up by the Senate Commerce Committee on April 28. At this time, it remains unclear if or how the differences between the bills will be reconciled or whether either will advance any further. COSSA is closely monitoring the legislation and will report on new developments. In the meantime, do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns about either bill.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 27), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

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