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House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Sexual Harassment in Science, Passes Bipartisan Bills

On June 12, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (SST) held a hearing to discuss combatting sexual harassment in scientific and research-oriented settings. Witnesses included Managing Director of Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) John Neumann, Wellesley College President Dr. Paula Johnson, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Boston University Dr. Jean Morrison, and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of California, Davis Dr. Phillip Kass.

SST Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) both expressed concern about the prevalence of sexual harassment in science and research and questioned the witnesses on best practices for prevention and reporting. Some of the topics raised in the hearing included the inconsistencies in policies of federal research agencies, the cultural forces that discourage the reporting and prevention of sexual harassment, successful prevention techniques used by other countries such as the United Kingdom’s Athena SWAN program, and the drastically higher rates of sexual harassment facing women of color. Some recommendations offered by the witnesses included increasing staff and funding for prevention and reporting at federal agencies, making prevention and reporting policies uniform across federal agencies, introducing better sexual harassment training at research settings, and increasing diversity in research settings. A statement from Chairwoman Johnson and a recording of the full hearing are available on the SST Committee website.

The following week on June 20, the SST Committee marked up the STEM Opportunities Act of 2019 (H.R. 2528), the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 (H.R. 36), and the Expanding Findings for Federal Opioid Research and Treatment Act (H.R. 3153), among others.  The bills held bipartisan support from the SST Committee members and amendments for H.R. 2528 and H.R. 36 were agreed upon in order to incorporate stakeholder input and to clarify language. COSSA officially endorsed the sexual harassment bill earlier this year. A statement from Chairwoman Johnson and a recording of the markup are available on the SST Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 25), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on NSF Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request

On May 8, the Research and Technology Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to discuss the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2020. Witnesses included NSF Director Dr. France Córdova and National Science Board Chair Dr. Diane Souvaine.

Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Haley Stevens (D-MI) presided over the hearing and used her opening statement to highlight the accomplishments of NSF and its important role as the only federal agency that supports basic research across all disciplines of science. She also drew attention to the fact that NSF serves as the primary source of federal research funds for some disciplines, including social science. Stevens further expressed appreciation for NSF’s commitment to the Ten Big Ideas Initiative but noted concern about the balance between supporting the Big Ideas and NSF’s core research portfolio.

Drs. Córdova and Souvaine highlighted the Ten Big Ideas and the importance of convergent research in their testimony. Additional topics discussed by members of the subcommittee and NSF leadership included social and behavioral dimensions of artificial intelligence research, preventing sexual harassment in science, and effective partnerships with the private sector.

Unlike in NSF budget hearings of the past few years, Republicans and Democrats joined together to applaud NSF’s support of basic research and to raise concern about the Administration’s proposal to decrease the NSF’s budget by nearly a billion dollars. The full hearing can be viewed on the Committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 14), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Science Committee Leadership Finalized; First Bills Introduced

On January 4, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) was elected the chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, after announcing her intention to seek the gavel following the 2018 midterm elections. Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK) was named Ranking Member of the Committee in December. Representatives Johnson and Lucas announced on the first day of the 116th Congress that they had jointly introduced two bills, one to combat sexual harassment in science, and one to integrate energy and water research at the Department of Energy. The two bills, H.R. 36, the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 and H.R. 34, the Energy and Water Research Integration Act of 2019, with their bipartisan co-sponsorship, represent what many in the scientific community hope to be a new era of bipartisanship on the House Science Committee. COSSA has endorsed the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019.

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

Rep. Johnson Seeks Science Chairmanship, Announces Priorities for the New Congress

On November 6, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) announced her interest in seeking the chairmanship of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Johnson has served as the Ranking Minority Member of the Science Committee since 2010, and, should she be elected chair—which is expected—she will become the first woman and the first person of color to lead the committee. In her announcement she included three priorities for the committee in the coming year, including: ensuring the United States remains the global leader in innovation, addressing the challenge of climate change, and restoring the “credibility of the Science Committee as a place where science is respected and recognized as a crucial input to good policymaking.” Committee assignments will come in the early months of 2019; COSSA will report on the details as they become available.

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Posted in Issue 23 (November 27), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on NSF Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request

On March 15, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to discuss the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2019. Witnesses included NSF Director France Córdova, National Science Board Chair Maria Zuber, and NSF Chief Operating Officer Joan Ferrini-Mundy.

Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) presided over the hearing and used his opening statement to express concern about several grants NSF has supported in the past that he does not consider to be addressing issues of national importance, a concern echoed by many other Republican members of the committee. Smith also expressed concern, shared by committee members on both sides of the aisle, that the U.S. is falling behind its international competitors in investment in research and development.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the top-ranking Democrat on the committee, used her opening statement to share her concern with NSF’s budget request being flat compared with the agency’s FY 2017 appropriation, and NSF’s proposed disproportionate cuts to education programs and the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate. Other members of the committee, including Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Paul Tonko (D-NY), expressed concern about the proposed cuts to the SBE Directorate. While not in attendance at the hearing, Dan Lipinski (D-IL) issued a statement for the record that expressed disappointment in the disproportionate cut to SBE.

Drs. Córdova and Zuber defended the agency’s support for the SBE sciences. Córdova shared that spectrum auctions, life-saving markets for kidney donations, and research in risk and resilience to natural disasters are all contributions of SBE-directorate supported research. Zuber added that the SBE directorate has supported research to understand what draws people to join violent extremist groups and that SBE-supported research in facial recognition aided in the capture of the Boston Marathon bombers.

Drs. Córdova, Zuber, and Ferrini-Mundy answered questions about NSF’s merit review process, U.S. international competitiveness in research, sexual harassment in science, STEM education, and other topics. Their full written testimony and a webcast of the hearing is available here.

Read COSSA’s full analysis of NSF’s FY19 budget request here.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 20), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Science Subcommittee Discusses FY 2016 NSF Budget, Social Science Funding

On February 26, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research Technology held an oversight hearing to discuss the fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The hearing featured testimony from NSF Director France Córdova and Daniel Arvizu, Chairman of the National Science Board. (more…)

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Posted in Issue 4 (March 13), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Congresswoman Johnson Defends NSF’s Merit Review Process

Last week, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ranking Member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, released a letter penned to Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) expressing concern over the chairman’s ongoing “investigation” into the merit review process at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and criticism of individual grants funded by NSF. Her letter comes as Chairman Smith has issued a third request in 18 months for NSF to provide the Committee with confidential, pre-decisional merit review documents for 30 additional grants; Smith has previously asked for documentation on a group of five grants and a second group of 20 grants earlier this year.

In her letter to the Chairman, Johnson states, “The plain truth is that there are no credible allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse associated with these [awards]. The only issue with them appears to be that you, personally, think that the grants sound wasteful based on your understanding of their titles and purpose.”

Also last week, Johnson posted online for public consumption all of the correspondence between Chairman Smith and NSF regarding the grants in question.

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Posted in Issue 18 (October 6), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

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