Blog Archives

Congressional Appropriators Get to Work; NSF Director Testifies

Following the release of the Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget request, Congressional leaders have gotten to work on spending bills for the coming fiscal year. As COSSA has previously reported, Congress must first address the limits to discretionary spending (“raise the caps”) before they can complete the FY 2020 appropriations process. Congress has until the end of September to finalize all government spending. COSSA has signed onto a letter as part of the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) to encourage Congress to raise the caps on discretionary spending.

While Congress has yet to reach a broader budget deal to address the caps on discretionary spending, Appropriations Subcommittees have started reviewing federal agencies’ budget requests as the first step in the appropriations process.

Last week, the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee (CJS) received testimony from France Córdova, the Director of the National Science Foundation, on the agency’s FY 2020 budget request. In her prepared statement, Director Córdova emphasized NSF’s Ten Big Ideas and the many contributions that NSF-funded research has made to the everyday lives of Americans – from iPhone and search engine technology to Doppler radar and American Sign Language adoption.  Members of the subcommittee expressed concern about the proposed twelve percent decrease for the agency in FY 2020, and how the agency was going to balance the rest of their research portfolio while investing in the Ten Big Ideas. Members of the subcommittee also highlighted the importance of social science in relation to the priorities of the NSF, including artificial intelligence, and their own priorities, including program evaluation, STEM education, and economic opportunity. Other topics of discussion included NSF investment in scientific infrastructure and broadening participation in STEM. An archive of the hearing can be viewed on the House Appropriations Committee website.

Leaders from the National Institutes of Health and the Census Bureau are scheduled to testify this week. For more information on Appropriations hearings and bills follow the COSSA Washington Update.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 2), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NSF Releases Dear Colleague on Research on Sexual Harassment in STEM

The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague Letter on March 29 highlighting NSF’s continued support for competitive research that advances fundamental knowledge about the nature and underlying dynamics of sexual and other forms of harassment and the evaluation of harassment prevention in research, STEM, and workplace settings. The letter outlines that NSF has designated liaisons for harassment research in their research directorates and offices to help potential grantees determine whether a research idea is within the scope of the Dear Colleague Letter and appropriate for existing programs at NSF. The letter also includes several potential research foci in the social and behavioral sciences including understanding the underlying social and behavioral process, mechanisms for assessing and evaluating harassment prevalence and prevention, and the nature and dynamics of harassment.

More information can be found on the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 2), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

National Science Foundation Invites Participation in Convergence Accelerator Pilot

In a Dear Colleague letter released on March 18, the National Science Foundation (NSF) invited interested parties to participate in the NSF Convergence Accelerator Pilot. The NSF Convergence Accelerators Pilot seeks to accelerate use-inspired convergence research in areas of national importance by facilitating convergent team-building capacity around exploratory, potentially high-risk proposals. The Pilot seeks proposals to support fundamental research while encouraging rapid advances through partnerships that include, or will include, multiple stakeholders in three research tracks aligned with two of the NSF Ten Big Ideas. The three research tracks are: Open Knowledge Network (as part of the Harnessing the Data Revolution Big Idea), AI and the Future of Jobs (as part of the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier Big Idea), and National Talent Ecosystem (as part of the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier Big Idea).

The submission of a Research Concept Outline is due April 15, with full proposals due by June 3.  NSF will host two webinars, on March 27 and April 3, to answer questions about the submission process and the Convergence Accelerator program more broadly. More information about the Convergence Accelerator program is available on the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 19), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Government Reopens; Final Funding for FY 2019 Still Unclear

Following the longest partial-government shutdown in U.S. history and the passage of a short-term stopgap measure to reopen the government, the fate of fiscal year (FY) 2019 appropriations is still unclear. On January 25, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) to reopen all federal agencies until February 15, allowing more time to negotiate a compromise on border security—the policy issue at the center of the government funding debate. While the timing for finalizing FY 2019 spending remains uncertain, negotiations on all spending levels (except for Homeland Security) have been finalized. The end product for agencies awaiting their final appropriation is not likely to diverge much, if at all, from the levels that have already been reported. COSSA will release a full analysis reviewing the FY 2019 outcomes for programs and agencies important to the social and behavioral sciences once Congress and the White House come to a final agreement.

Prior to the reopening of the government, COSSA signed on to a letter to President Trump and Congressional leaders as a part of the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) expressing concern about the impact of government shutdowns on America’s research enterprise. The scientific community is bracing for another potential shutdown should agreement not be reached before the next deadline on February 15.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 5), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Social Scientists Encouraged to Explore NSF’s Ten Big Ideas Solicitations

Arthur Lupia, Assistant Director for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) of the National Science Foundation (NSF), is calling on social and behavioral scientists to learn more about, and consider applying for, the funding opportunities associated with the NSF Ten Big Ideas for Future Investment. The Ideas focus on critical issues in science and society and provide potentially substantial opportunities for social and behavioral scientists—from planning grants to research infrastructure. The letter includes details of the Big Ideas, links to more information, and directions to join informational webinars. Read the letter below for detail. More information about the Ten Big Ideas can be found on the NSF website.

Substantial Funding Opportunities from NSF Relevant to SBE Scientists

Dear Colleague,

There are new funding opportunities at NSF that might be of interest to you. They are called the “Big Ideas” and they focus on critical issues in science and society. The purpose of each Big Idea is to motivate dynamic and innovative scholars to create and implement new and potentially transformative interdisciplinary approaches to some very large societal challenges.

I encourage

  • every social scientist,
  • every behavioral scientist,
  • every member of an organization who is willing to collaborate with social or behavioral scientists, and
  • every scholar who is looking for new opportunities to advance science in ways that best serve the public

to think “big”.

Here are some of the opportunities now available:

  1. Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR): Data are being created, distributed, and used at a scale that is unprecedented in human history. This Big Idea encourages NSF’s research community to pursue broad, interdisciplinary research in data science and engineering, and to explore its implications for social interaction and organization. This Big Idea seeks to help society better understand, and more effectively develop, a cohesive, federated, national-scale approach to research data infrastructure, and knowledge needed to empower a 21st-century data-capable workforce. The HDR vision is realized through an interrelated set of activities and funding opportunities. Each of these efforts is designed to amplify the intrinsically multidisciplinary nature of the emerging field of data science.
    Multiple Funding Opportunities:

  2. The Future of Work at the Human Technology Frontier: This Big Idea seeks to help society better understand, and more effectively build, the human-technology relationship in the context of work. Relevant activities include assessing the social and behavioral implications of automation; producing new technologies to augment human performance; developing and evaluating mechanisms to foster lifelong and pervasive learning with technology; and many more.
    Funding Opportunity:

  3. Navigating the New Arctic: The Arctic is undergoing rapid biological, physical, and social change, not only its shape and surface properties, but also the ways in which humans can interact with it. This Big Idea seeks to help society better understand, and more effectively adapt to how Arctic change will influence communities both in the Arctic and beyond. This initiative is not just for people already studying the Arctic. It is for anyone whose work is potentially pertinent to New Arctic issues.
    Funding Opportunity:

  4. Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure: At NSF, the term “mid-scale” infrastructure refers to projects that, once built, can help many researchers conduct diverse analyses from a single platform. The budget for these projects can range from $6.0 million to $70.0 million over a five-year period. This Big Idea is designed to motivate entrepreneurial research teams to create new and innovative research platforms.
    Two Funding Opportunities:

  5. Growing Convergence Research: Research relying on convergence is needed to solve complex scientific and engineering problems that require integrating knowledge, methods, and expertise from different disciplines and forming novel frameworks to catalyze scientific discovery and innovation. This is research driven by a specific and compelling problem and features deep integration across disciplines.
    More details are expected soon.

Two additional Big Ideas do not currently have open funding opportunities; but could be a source of new solicitations in the future.

Understanding the Rules of Life: This Big Idea seeks broad interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the regularities that guide or influence the emergence of observable characteristics, i.e., phenotype, in organisms across the tree of life, including humans. Previously, this program sought proposals in two areas: Epigenetics, and Building a Synthetic Cell. While the subject matter of future calls has not been determined, we anticipate calls that include a significant role for social and behavioral scientists.

NSF INCLUDES: This Big Idea seeks to help scholars develop, implement, and evaluate new ways to transform education and career pathways in ways that broaden participation in science and engineering.  The INCLUDES initiative is aimed at expanding the number of underrepresented scientists and engineers within the U.S. scientific workforce.  To accomplish this, NSF INCLUDES has supported the development of a national network of a broad array of research centers and sites, both public and private, with varied STEM foci ranging from community water research to environmental engineering.

Please spend a few minutes learning about the Big Ideas. These new funding opportunities, along with NSF’s existing social and behavioral science programs, offer exciting opportunities for innovative scholars who are interested in transformative, problem-inspired, basic research. If you have questions about these or other SBE programs, please contact the program officers listed at the bottom of each opportunity’s main page.

The Big Ideas offer a great opportunity for social and behavioral scientists to advance science and address important social problems. We would like to see strong proposals from our community in the weeks and months to come.


Arthur Lupia
Assistant Director
Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
National Science Foundation

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 5), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NSF Releases Information for Proposers and Grantees During Government Shutdown

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is one of many government agencies currently closed due to the partial government shutdown, which has now stretched into its fourth week. NSF has issued guidance for proposers and grantees on how proposal submissions and existing grants are affected by the government shutdown. While the government shutdown continues, no new funding opportunities will be issued. However, proposal preparation and submission for existing opportunities will be available through FastLane and, and proposal submissions will continue to be accepted and expected to follow existing deadlines. More information is available on the NSF website, though it is noted that NSF will not be available to respond to emails or phone calls during the lapse in appropriations.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 22), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NSF Releases Solicitation for “Ideas Labs” for Data-Intensive Research in Science and Engineering

As part of the ongoing 10 Big Ideas for Future Investment at the National Science Foundation (NSF), NSF has released a solicitation on the Harnessing the Data Revolution big idea. The solicitation, for participation in NSF Ideas Labs, which are intensive workshops focused on finding innovative and bold transdisciplinary solutions to grand challenge problems, is part of NSF’s support for data-intensive research in science and engineering. The Ideas Labs will be intensive, interactive, and free-thinking environments in which a diverse group of participants from a range of disciplines and backgrounds will meet for five days and immerse themselves in collaborative thinking processes with a goal of constructing innovative approaches for solving significant science and engineering challenges through data-intensive research. Preliminary proposals for participation are being accepted through January 28, 2019. More information can be found on the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 8), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NSF Releases FY 2019 Program Solicitation for Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a revised solicitation for the fiscal year (FY) 2019 grant competition for Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF), one of NSF’s Ten Big Ideas. FW-HTF is a cross-directorate initiative, supported by the directorates for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), Education and Human Resources (EHR), Engineering (ENG), Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), and the Office of Integrative Activities (OIA) that encourages integration and convergence of disciplines across all these fields. Through FW-HTF, NSF is responding to challenges and opportunities related to the changing landscape of jobs and work.

The overarching vision of this Big Idea is to support convergent research to understand and develop the human-technology partnership, design new technologies to augment human performance, illuminate the emerging socio-technological landscape, understand the risks and benefits of new technologies, understand and influence the impact of artificial intelligence on workers and work, and foster lifelong and pervasive learning. Proposals must focus on advancing fundamental understanding of future work, and potential improvements to work, workplaces, workforce preparation, or work outcomes for workers and society. It must be convergent research that addresses the technological as well as the human and societal dimensions and potential impact of future work. The full solicitation can be found on the NSF website. The deadline for proposals is March 6, 2019.

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Posted in Issue 24 (December 11), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

President Appoints Five New Members of the National Science Board, Reappoints Two Members

On November 5, President Trump announced his intent to make five appointments to the National Science Board (NSB), the governing body of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The selections include reappointments of former NSB chair Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Geraldine Richmond of the University of Oregon. Two of the new appointees, Alan Stern and Stephen Willard, have backgrounds in the private sector. Dr. Stern is considered to be a champion of commercial space activities and has worked for Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. Mr. Willard is currently the CEO of a biotechnology firm after earlier careers in law and investment banking. The three other appointees will join the NSB from universities. Steven Leath is currently the President of Auburn University, after a career in agricultural research; Suresh Garimella is a professor of mechanical engineering and former vice president for research at Perdue University; and Maureen Condic is on faculty at the University of Utah and has focused her work on human neurological development, including testifying before congress on the ability of fetuses to experience pain during early stages of development and opposing research on embryonic stem cells.

Board members are nominated by the President to serve six-year terms, with the opportunity for renewal. In addition to Drs. Zuber and Richmond, the terms of six members of the NSB expired in May, meaning that education researcher Deborah Ball, internet founder Vinton Cerf, and four other NSB members were not selected for renewal. The NSB will hold its first meeting with the new appointees on November 28 and 29.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 13), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

NSF Seeks Nominations for the 2019 Alan T. 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. Psychologist Kristina R. Olson received the 2018 Waterman award and was the first social scientist to receive the award since 2005. More information can be found on the NSF website. Nominations may be submitted until October 22, 2018.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 2), Update, Volume 37 (2018)


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