Blog Archives

House Sends Slate of Science Bills to the Senate

On May 17, the House of Representatives approved a group of bills introduced in the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee that aim to make the U.S. science enterprise more equitable, safe, and fair. Four bills, the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act (H.R. 144), the STEM Opportunities Act (H.R. 204), the MSI STEM Achievement Act (H.R. 2027), and the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act (H.R. 2695) were introduced by Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson and were endorsed by COSSA. The Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act would authorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a two-year pilot program to award grants to highly qualified early-career investigators to carry out an independent research program. The STEM Opportunities Act would provide for guidance, data collection, and grants for groups historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at higher education institutions and at federal science agencies. The MSI STEM Achievement Act would require the NSF to award grants for building the capacity of minority-serving institutions (MSIs) to increase the number and success of their students in the STEM workforce. The Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act (see COSSA’s previous coverage) would expand research on the causes and consequences of sexual harassment in the STEM workforce as well as direct data to influence policy to reduce the negative impacts of sexual harassment. The House also passed the Rural STEM Education Act (H.R. 210), introduced by House Science Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), which would direct NSF to support research regarding STEM education in rural schools. These and other STEM-related bills may be rolled in with other, sweeping NSF authorizing legislation in the future, such as the NSF for the Future Act (see previous coverage).

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

House Science Committee Reintroduces Legislation to Combat Sexual Harassment in Science

On April 20, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (SST) reintroduced the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act (H.R. 2695), bipartisan legislation that would expand research on the causes and consequences of sexual harassment in the STEM workforce as well as direct data to influence policy to reduce the negative impacts of sexual harassment. COSSA has been an endorser of the legislation since 2018 when it was first introduced (see previous coverage for more details). More information is available in a press release available on the SST website.

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

House Science Committee Releases Federal Scientific Workforce Report

Last month, the majority staff of the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology released the report Scientific Brain Drain: Quantifying the Decline of the Federal Scientific Workforce, an analysis of federal employment levels of seven federal science agencies: the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology (DHS S&T), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Energy (DOE), and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). The analysis looked across the past decade to understand how the federal government is investing in its increasing scientific responsibilities, alongside the context of racial, ethnic, and gender equity. The report identifies historical challenges facing U.S. researchers compared to other countries such as underinvestment in research, understaffing of STEM workers, lack of diversity in the scientific workforce, and lack of scientific integrity at federal agencies. The report calls on Congress and the executive branch to focus long-term attention and support to restore scientific integrity; increase funding for science agencies; embrace proactive recruitment, hiring, and retention policies; and deepen the commitment to diversity and equity. The full report is available on the Science Committee website.

This article was contributed by COSSA’s Spring intern, Nicholas Lynn.

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

Science Committee Releases NSF Reauthorization Proposal

On March 26, the House Science Committee on Science, Space, and Technology released the text of the National Science Foundation for the Future Act, its proposed reauthorization legislation for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bipartisan bill was introduced by Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), along with Reps. Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Michael Waltz (R-FL), the Chair and Ranking Member respectively of the Subcommittee on Research and Technology.

Although Rep. Lucas had previously introduced a competing bill, the Securing American Leadership in Science and Technology Act, in the press release accompanying the Committee’s bill, he thanked Rep. Johnson for “working with me to craft a bipartisan bill” and for “including provisions on research security, which has been a growing concern for Republicans on our Committee.”

The Science Committee’s bill would set funding targets for the NSF’s budget over the course of the next five fiscal years (FY), bringing the agency’s overall budget from its current $8.5 billion to $18.3 billion by FY 2026. However, as an authorization bill, the legislation can only identify desired targets; Congressional appropriators would still need to act each year to enact funding increases for the agency. The bill would also establish a new research directorate within NSF, the Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions (SES), which, according to the Committee’s press release 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.” While in some ways similar to the Technology Directorate proposed in the Endless Frontier Act introduced in the previous Congress, the scale of the SES Directorate’s budget would be more proportionate to NSF’s overall budget (as opposed to being multiple times larger) and the Directorate would set its own scientific priorities rather than adhering to a list set by Congress.

The NSF for the Future Act includes a number of provisions that would affect the social science community, including language that the social, behavioral, and economic sciences (SBE) should be actively included in NSF cross-cutting and interdisciplinary activities like the Convergence Accelerators, Big Ideas, and Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure. COSSA will release a full analysis of the bill and its potential impact on the social sciences to COSSA members later this week.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 30), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

House Science Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Rebuilding the Federal Scientific Workforce

On March 17, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a hearing to address strategies to rebuild the federal scientific workforce especially related to recruiting and retaining scientific talent. The Subcommittee heard testimony from Acting Director for Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics at the U.S. Government Accountability Office Candice Wright; President and CEO at the Partnership for Public Service Max Stier; Director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists Dr. Andrew Rosenberg; and Former Director of Science and Technology at the Office of Water at the Environmental Protection Agency Dr. Betsy Southerland.

Subcommittee Chairman Bill Foster (D-IL) and Ranking Member Jay Obernolte (R-CA) both acknowledged the need to improve the capabilities of the federal government to hire scientists, and Subcommittee members of both parties seemed broadly supportive of suggestions provided by the panelists to increase the federal scientific workforce and reform federal hiring practices. Some of the recommendations discussed by Subcommittee members and panelists included reducing the budgetary and political restraints on hiring scientists, improving the federal government’s “brand” as an employer, simplifying the federal job-hunting process for scientists, offering meaningful scientific internships as a legitimate pipeline to full-time employment, investing in STEM education opportunities in elementary schools, and deemphasizing the reliance on temporary workers and contractors at federal agencies. Both Foster and Obernolte expressed interest in pursuing legislative action on these topics in the future.

Statements from Foster and full Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), witness testimonies, and a full recording of the hearing are available on the SST website.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 30), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

House Science Committee Organizes

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has announced its membership roster for the 117th Congress (see the majority and minority press releases). As previously reported, the Chair and Ranking Member will again be Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK). Members new to the Science Committee this Congress include Carlos Giménez (R-FL), Stephanie Bice (R-OK), Randy Feenstra (R-IA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Young Kim (R-CA), Jake LaTurner (R-KS), Peter Meijer (R-MI), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Jay Obernolte (R-CA), Deborah K. Ross (D-NC), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Daniel Webster (R-FL), and Susan Wild (D-PA). Democratic subcommittee leadership is largely unchanged from the 116th Congress, with the exception of Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) helming the Subcommittee on Energy and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) leading the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee. On the Republican side, Rep. Bice will serve as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Environment, Rep. Obernolte will serve as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, and Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) will be the Ranking Member on the Research and Technology Subcommittee. The full Science Committee roster is available on the Science Committee website.

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

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on COVID-19 Impacts and the Recovery of the U.S. Research Enterprise

On February 25, the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology (SST) held a hearing on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on U.S. research and potential solutions to provide relief and recovery to the research enterprise. The hearing featured testimony from CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Dr. Sudip Parikh, Vice President for Research at Washington State University Dr. Christopher Keane, Executive Vice President of the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Thomas Quaadman, and Executive Director of the American Educational Research Association and member of COSSA’s Board of Directors Dr. Felice Levine. The hearing was presided over by SST Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK).

The Committee members questioned the witnesses on a variety of issues related to the public health emergency surrounding COVID-19 and how it is affecting the U.S. research enterprise. Members posed questions related to the stagnation of U.S. research investment per capita, the future of U.S. leadership in science on the international stage, inequities among women and racial minorities in research, the career development for young people in science and technology, the importance of public-private partnerships in coordinating the research enterprise, and the need for funding to jumpstart research that has slowed due to the pandemic.

A major topic of discussion was the prospect of passing the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (H.R. 869), which would authorize $25 billion across several research agencies to offset costs related to lost research productivity due to the pandemic. Each of the panelists voiced support for the passage of the RISE Act, with many Democratic members of the Committee echoing this support. Support for the legislation was also expressed by some of the Republican members of the Committee, including Ranking Member Lucas, although concerns were raised about perceived partisanship in the drafting of the bill and reluctance to spend money for research while institutions are partially closed.

Of note, Dr. Levine advocated for the passage of the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act (H.R. 144) to help offset lost human capital in research. Dr. Levine also highlighted the role of the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as well as the role of the social and behavioral sciences in identifying ways to bolster the scientific workforce in the aftermath of COVID-19 and for future generations.

Chairwoman Johnson’s opening statement, the witnesses’ testimonies, and a recording of the hearing are available on the SST Committee website.

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

House Science Committee Holds Hearing On COVID-19 Vaccines and Encouraging Uptake

On February 19, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing on “The Science of COVID-19 Vaccines and Encouraging Vaccine Uptake.” The Committee heard testimony from Professor in Vaccinology and Director at the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, Director and Health Authority at the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Philip Huang, Deputy Commissioner at the Oklahoma State Department of Health Keith Reed, and the Scientific Director at the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics and Associate Professor of Nursing and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing Dr. Alison Buttenheim. The hearing was overseen by Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK).

Throughout the hearing, varying were views expressed over whether supply or demand of vaccines should be the focus. Dr. Huang reminded the Committee that vaccine hesitancy remains an issue, and Dr. Neuzil advocated for more investment into social science research for a better understanding of vaccine hesitancy. Dr. Buttenheim and Dr. Huang both advocated for removing logistical hurdles preventing citizens from getting discouraged by protocols. The witnesses also criticized the framing of “Operation Warp Speed,” the government’s vaccine development and distribution initiative, as a potential contributor to public fear of the speed of vaccine development. They also cautioned against proposing incentives for vaccination, on the grounds that it would send the wrong message around vaccines.

There was also discussion around differences between the several versions of the vaccine and how citizens could be overwhelmed by choosing which vaccine to take. Dr. Buttenheim advocated for reducing the cognitive load for citizens by bringing all authorized COVID-19 vaccines under one label like influenza vaccines. Two Committee members, Mike Garcia (R-CA) and Randy Weber (R-TX), raised concerns over this approach—Garcia agreed with the science behind the reasoning, but believed this could do more harm than good in the long-term. Every witness agreed that communication coming from local and trusted medical leaders must be clear and consistent to allow diverse strategies that best serve the populations equitably and build long-term confidence. Dr. Buttenheim laid out specific strategies in her written testimony. The hearing is available on the Committee on Science, Space, & Technology’s website.

This article was contributed by Nicholas Lynn, COSSA’s spring intern.

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

Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act Reintroduced in 117th Congress

On January 5, the House Science, Space, and Technology (SST) Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act (H.R. 144), legislation that would create a new postdoctoral fellowship program at the National Science Foundation to support early-career researchers whose opportunities have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnson and Lucas, who had previously introduced the legislation in the previous Congress, have stated that the goal of the legislation is to prevent the loss of research talent due to any economic disruptions that may have occurred due to the public health emergency. The bill’s text is available on the SST Committee website.

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

Congress Works to Close Out Term as Leaders Named for 117th Congress

With time running out before the current continuing resolution (CR) funding the government expires on December 11, Congressional leaders are still working to negotiate a final deal for an omnibus spending package to fully fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2021. Reportedly, appropriators have reached an agreement on the top-line funding levels for the various appropriations bills (see COSSA’s analyses of the House and Senate proposals). The main obstacle appears to disagreement be on the size and composition of an additional COVID-19 relief funding package, which would be attached to one of the appropriations bills to ensure passage. Although appropriators have reaffirmed their commitments to the December 11 deadline, they may pass an additional CR to give themselves additional time to wrap up spending. However, time before the end of the session is running out, particularly if Members hope to set aside time to quarantine ahead of returning home to their families for the Christmas holiday.

In the meantime, House Democrats have named leaders of several key committees important to the social sciences. The House majority selected Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) to take the helm of the House Appropriations Committee, replacing Nita Lowey (D-NY), who is retiring at the end of this year. Rep. DeLauro is a senior appropriator and current chair of Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS). During her tenure on the Labor-HHS subcommittee, DeLauro has been a big supporter of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and health research. In addition, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), a longtime champion of the social sciences, was unanimously re-elected to serve as Chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee, which oversees the National Science Foundation. Control of the Senate still depends on the results of the upcoming Georgia runoff elections. COSSA will continue to report on additional Committee appointments important to the social sciences as they are announced.

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

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