Blog Archives

Administration Expands Ban on “Promotion” of Structural Racism/Sexism to Contractors, Grantees

As part of the Administration’s ongoing effort to crack down on perceived “political correctness” in government, President Trump issued an executive order on September 22 to “combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.” This order expands on a recent memorandum from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that required federal agencies to cease funding for training that addresses critical race theory and white privilege (see previous coverage). The executive order applies this prohibition to federal contractors and grant recipients. In addition, it expands the original OMB memo beyond employee training to require that federal agencies certify that federal grantees will not use federal funds to “promote the concepts” that:

“(a) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex; (b) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously; (c) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex; (d) members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex; (e) an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex; (f) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex; (g) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; or (h) meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.”

This raises the concerns that, depending on how the language is interpreted by federal agency leadership, the prohibition could apply to federal social science research grants that address structural racism and sexism. The order gives agency heads 60 days to compile a list of grant programs that violate this prohibition. We will continue to follow the implementation of this order closely and report on developments affecting social scientists. COSSA recently joined a statement led by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the National Academy of Education in support of anti-racist education.

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Posted in Issue 19 (September 29), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

White House Directs Federal Agencies to Defund Race-Related Trainings for Federal Employees

On September 4, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum calling for federal agencies to cease funding training sessions for federal employees addressing critical race theory and white privilege. The memo alleges that “executive branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to date ‘training’ government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda,” citing unnamed press reports as evidence that “employees across the executive branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that ‘virtually all White people contribute to racism’ or where they are required to say that they ‘benefit from racism.’” The memo directs federal agencies to “identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’ ‘white privilege,’ or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.”

Many organizations in the scientific community have expressed concern about the OMB memo, including the American Sociological Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member. In a September 7 press release, ASA asserted that the OMB memo “represents a fundamental misunderstanding of both critical race theory and the term white privilege and the extensive body of empirical research underlying them,” and shared a list of sociologists who could comment on their research of the issues.

Other organizations, including COSSA and several of its member associations, are also weighing a response to the OMB memo. We will continue to report on this developing story.

The full OMB memo is available on the White House website.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 15), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

White House Outlines FY 2022 R&D Budget Priorities

On August 14, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memorandum laying out the Trump Administration’s research and development budget (R&D) priorities for fiscal year (FY) 2022. The memo cites five key White House priorities and four “high-priority crosscutting actions” for U.S. federal agencies to consider as they develop their FY 2022 budget submissions.

While the FY 2022 memo shares similar priorities to R&D memos from previous fiscal years, a notable difference is the inclusion of public health security and innovation as a priority in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The five budgetary priorities listed in the memo are:

  1. Public Health Security and Innovation
  2. Leadership in the Industries of the Future and Related Technologies
  3. Security
  4. Energy and Environmental Leadership
  5. Space Leadership

The memo also includes four “high-priority crosscutting actions” for federal agencies to better meet the budgetary priorities listed above. These four actions are:

  1. Build the S&T Workforce of the Future
  2. Optimize Research Environments and Results
  3. Facilitate Multisector Partnerships and Technology Transfer
  4. Leverage the Power of Data

Additional details can be found in the memorandum.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 1), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Federal Research Agencies Release Guidance on OMB’s Administrative Flexibility Changes

In response to a June 18 memo (M 20-26) issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) extending certain administrative flexibilities to federal grant recipients as relief for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, federal research agencies have released guidance statements clarifying the memo’s implications for recipients of research grants. On June 25, both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) released nearly identical sets of guidance in response to the OMB memo explaining how the changes to the flexibilities will specifically affect recipients of their grants. The flexibilities include an allowance to continue charging salaries, benefits, and other applicable program costs to active NIH and NSF awards through September 30, 2020 (assuming that payroll costs have not already been paid through other COVID-19 relief programs), and an extension of the single audit submission deadline by up to three months.

More information is available on the NIH website and the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

White House Launches Search for Chief Statistician

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has posted a vacancy announcement for the position of Chief Statistician of the United States, following the departure of former Chief Statistician Nancy Potok at the end of 2019. The Chief Statistician oversees OMB’s Statistical Policy and Science Branch and is responsible for implementing cross-agency data and statistics policies, including the Federal Data Strategy and the implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. The window for applications closes on June 29.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 9), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

White House Finalizes 2020 Data Strategy Action Plan

The White House has released its final 2020 Action Plan for the Federal Data Strategy (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The Federal Data Strategy, which is being coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is a “ten-year vision for how the Federal government will accelerate the use of data to support the foundations of democracy, deliver on mission, serve the public, and steward resources while protecting security, privacy and confidentiality.” The Strategy consists of 10 principles and 40 best practices to guide federal agencies on how to leverage the value of their data.

The next phase in the Strategy’s implementation is its first-year Action Plan, which details concrete steps to align existing efforts and establish a firm basis of tools, processes, and capacities to leverage data as a strategic asset. The action plan also incorporates several mandated actions from the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, which was signed into law in 2019. A draft plan was released over the summer and the final version was revised in response to feedback received (see the detailed description of changes made).

The steps planned for 2020 are organized into three categories—actions to be taken by agencies, actions to be taken by a specific agency or group of agencies related to a common topic, and government-wide data services and pilot projects.

Agency Actions

  • Action 1: Identify Data Needs to Answer Priority Agency Questions
  • Action 2: Institutionalize Agency Data Governance
  • Action 3: Assess Data and Related Infrastructure Maturity
  • Action 4: Identify Opportunities to Increase Staff Data Skills
  • Action 5: Identify Priority Data Assets for Agency Open Data Plans
  • Action 6: Publish and Update Data Inventories

Community of Practice Actions

  • Action 7: Launch a Federal Chief Data Officer Council
  • Action 8: Improve Data and Model Resources for AI Research and Development
  • Action 9: Improve Financial Management Data Standards
  • Action 10: Integrate Geospatial Data Practices into the Federal Data Enterprise

Shared Solution Actions

  • Action 11: Develop a Repository of Federal Enterprise Data Resources
  • Action 12: Create an OMB Federal Data Policy Committee
  • Action 13: Develop a Curated Data Skills Catalog
  • Action 14: Develop a Data Ethics Framework
  • Action 15: Develop a Data Protection Toolkit
  • Action 16: Pilot a One-stop Standard Research Application
  • Action 17: Pilot an Automated Tool for Information Collection Reviews that Supports Data Inventory Creation and Updates
  • Action 18: Pilot Enhanced Data Management Tool for Federal Agencies
  • Action 19: Develop Data Quality Measuring and Reporting Guidance
  • Action 20: Develop a Data Standards Repository

The Strategy outlines a series of milestones, measurements, target dates, and responsible entities for each action. The full action plan is available on the data strategy website. COSSA will continue to report on the activities related to the Data Strategy as the actions are implemented and the next year’s action plan is developed.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

White House Outlines FY 2021 R&D Budget Priorities

On August 30, Acting Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Russell Vought, with Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issued a joint memorandum to federal agency and department heads on “FY 2021 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities.” The memo lays out five key White House priorities as agencies begin working on their budget submissions for the next fiscal year and five “high-priority crosscutting actions” for agencies to maximize success in the science and technology enterprise. This is the first set of R&D priorities released under the leadership of Dr. Droegemeier, who was confirmed as OSTP director in January.

The FY 2021 memo shares priorities with previous Administration guidance, including acknowledging the important role of science and technology to America’s global leadership and emphasizing national security, American energy and environmental leadership, medical innovation, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and space exploration as research and development priorities. While the priorities are similar to those included in the FY 2019 and FY 2020 memos, the FY 2021 memo includes more details about ongoing Administration activities, including The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan, and the Federal Data Strategy.

The memo also includes five actions for agencies to take in order to maximize success in the science and technology enterprise. These direct agencies to build and leverage a diverse, highly skilled American workforce; create and support research environments that reflect American values; support transformative research of high risk and potentially high reward; leverage the power of data; and build, strengthen, and expand strategic multisector partnerships.

Additional details can be found in the memorandum.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 3), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

OMB Releases First Set of Evidence Act Guidance

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued the first set of guidance related to implementing the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (or Evidence Act), legislation that builds on the recommendations of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking to formalize the use of data and evidence in informing the everyday work of federal agencies. The guidance provides detailed information for federal agencies on developing Learning Agendas, which identify the agency’s priority questions to be informed by evidence; sets out the requirements and responsibilities for the senior roles mandated by the legislation—Chief Data Officer, Evaluation Officer, and Statistical Official; and provides direction on creating evaluation plans, undertaking capacity assessments, and identifying data needs. The full guidance is available online. OMB will release additional Evidence Act guidance covering open data access and management, data access for statistical purposes, and program evaluation in the coming months.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 23), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

OMB Seeks Feedback on Length of Executive Branch Comment Prohibition for Release of Economic Indicators

Statistical Policy Directive No. 3 recommends Executive Branch employees refrain from commenting on the release of principal federal economic indicators for 60 minutes after their release. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is seeking public comment on whether that 60-minute window is still appropriate given the many changes in the information landscape since the policy directive was issued in 1985. OMB is not considering changes to the embargo on the release of any information or comment about federal statistics before their official release by the statistical agencies, only whether policy officials should be allowed to comment earlier than 60 minutes after their release.

The text under consideration is:

“Except for members of the staff of the agency issuing the principal economic indicator who have been designated by the agency head to provide technical explanations of the data, employees of the Executive Branch shall not comment publicly on the data until at least one hour after the official release time.”

The goal of this language was to draw a sharp distinction between “the release of the statistics and their accompanying explanation and analysis, on the one hand, and the more general type of policy-oriented comment which is a function of the official responsible for policy making, on the other.” However, given that statistical agencies can now publicly release their data on their own websites and disseminate them through social media, and that these releases can be reported on nearly instantaneously by the media, OMB is seeking guidance on whether 60 minutes is still the right length of time to avoid comments from policy officials within the Executive Branch (or if the window is still necessary at all). It should be noted that it is the position of the White House Counsel that the President does not qualify as an “employee” of the Executive Branch, but any officials within Executive Branch agencies who disseminate his comments (retweeting him, for example), would be subject to these rules.

Full details on the request for comments are available in the Federal Register notice. Comments must be submitted by June 10, 2019.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 16), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Comments Sought on Federal Data Strategy Best Practices

As recommended in the President’s Management Agenda released back in March, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been leading the development of a government-wide Federal Data Strategy to better manage the government’s data resources and improve the accessibility and usability of federal date for decision-making. The developers have finalized ten principles to guide the strategy across the themes of Ethical Governance, Conscious Design, and Learning Culture and are seeking comments on 47 aspirational best practices that are intended to “inform agency actions on a regular basis, to be continually relevant, and to be sufficiently general so as to broadly apply at all federal agencies and across all missions.” The practices are grouped according to five broad objectives: Govern and Manage Data as a Strategic Asset, Protect and Secure Data, Promote Efficient Use of Data Assets, Build a Culture that Values Data as an Asset, and Honor Stakeholder Input and Leverage Partners. Comments on the draft practices are due by November 16, 2018. Instructions for submitting feedback and the complete list of practices are available on the Data Strategy website.

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


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