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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)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Research Needs for Coping with Compound Crises

On September 30, the Environment Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on “Coping with Compound Crises: Extreme Weather, Social Injustice, and a Global Pandemic.” The hearing featured the testimony of Dr. Roxane Cohen Silver, Professor of Psychological Science, Medicine, and Public Health, University of California, Irvine; and Dr. Samantha Montano, Assistant Professor of Emergency Management, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, each who spoke about the need for rapid federal research funding to support social research in the immediate aftermath of disasters and other crises. Members of the committee from both sides of the aisle, including Environment Subcommittee Chair Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), full Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), full Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), reiterated the importance of the social and behavioral sciences in helping us to better understand how to more effectively recover from disasters and prevent them from taking a toll on human lives and property in the future. A recording of the hearing and testimony from the witnesses is available on the Science Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 13), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Policing Research Bill Introduced as Congress Continues Focus on Police Reform

In the wake of mass protests against police violence throughout the country, Congress has been active in introducing several bills addressing systemic racism and police violence, including a bill for more social and behavioral science research on these issues. On June 18, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (SST), introduced the Promoting Fair and Effective Policing Through Research Act, a bill that mandates that the National Science Foundation (NSF) fund social and behavioral science research on policing practices and the mitigation of police violence. It also directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to establish a program to study potential bias in policing tools and technology, and directs the Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) at the Department of Homeland Security to establish a program to support the reduction of police violence. More information can be found on the SST website.

In the meantime, Congress remains fixated on broader policing reform legislation. In the Senate, Tim Scott (R-SC) has introduced the JUSTICE Act (S. 3985), a bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated will be considered by the full Senate. The bill requires police departments to implement de-escalation training and report the use of force and prevents police from using chokeholds in most situations. In the House, Democrats have coalesced around the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120) introduced by Karen Bass (D-CA) and endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus. The bill mandates much more substantial reforms to policing, including labelling chokeholds as a potential civil rights violation, denying grants to some police jurisdictions, and making it easier to sue individual police for civil rights violations. COSSA will be monitoring these bills and providing updates when available.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 23), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Science Committee Leaders Introduce Artificial Intelligence Legislation

On March 12, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee introduced the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act of 2020 (H.R. 6216). The legislation intends to accelerate and coordinate federal investments and facilitate new public-private partnerships in research, standards, and education in artificial intelligence, to ensure the United States leads the world in the development and use of responsible artificial intelligence systems. The legislation includes many opportunities for agencies to support research on the social and behavioral dimensions of artificial intelligence and emphasizes the importance of understanding the social, ethical, and economic implications of artificial intelligence. The legislation has a bipartisan group of original cosponsors, including Representatives Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Pete Olson (R-TX), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), and Randy Weber (R-TX). The full text of the legislation and a one-page description can be found on the Science Committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 31), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Republicans Introduce Bill to Reauthorize Science Agencies

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced the Securing American Leadership in Science and Technology Act (H.R. 5685), a bill to reauthorize science agencies, on January 29. Science Committee Democrats are working on their own science agency reauthorization legislation, but details have not yet been released for the agencies most important to the social sciences. COSSA will report on the majority’s proposals when they are released.

The Republicans’ legislation proposes doubling basic research funding over the next ten years at the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The legislation also includes support for clean energy infrastructure, resources for growing the STEM workforce, and modernization of Antarctic science and conservation programs.

The minority’s bill would increase NSF’s budget, which is currently just over $8 billion, to more than $14 billion by 2029 and recognizes the importance of the agency’s support for fundamental research across all disciplines of science and engineering. Additionally, the bill directs NSF to undergo several specific activities including, developing ethics and security plans for research, supporting more mid-scale research infrastructure, and awarding grants to support research and training related to scientific reproducibility. The bill also proposes an external review of NSF’s structure and support for cross-disciplinary research.

While the bill includes several marked changes from Republican science reauthorization proposals of the past, it is not likely to be taken up by the Science, Space, and Technology Committee or the full House of Representatives, which are both under Democratic control. However, it is possible that provisions from the Republican bill could make it into legislation developed by the Democrats. More information about the bill and a copy of the legislation, can be viewed on the Science Committee Republican’s website.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Improving Science and Technology Advice for Congress

On December 5, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (SST) held a hearing to discuss options in improving the advice-giving infrastructure available to Members of Congress on science and technology issues. Members discussed recommendations from a recent National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) report on Science and Technology Policy Assessment as well as the possibility of reinstating the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which was dismantled in 1995. Witnesses present at the hearing included Director of Civil-Military Programs at the Stennis Center for Public Service Michael McCord, Director of the Technology and Public Purpose Project in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Laura Manley, Chief Scientist and Managing Director of Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics in the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Dr. Tim Persons, and Executive Director of the Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Dr. Peter Blair.

Committee Members questioned the witnesses on the findings of the NAPA report, the merits of reinstating OTA, technology assessment activities occurring at GAO, and other issues. While Members of both parties expressed interest in strengthening the quality of knowledge and tools available to Congress, the two parties disagreed on the method. Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and other Democrats supported a multi-lateral approach including reinstating and refunding OTA while Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) and other Republicans favored a consolidation of technology assessment into GAO along with other recommendations listed in the NAPA report.

The House Legislative Branch Appropriations report for FY 2020 includes $6 million for the re-establishment of OTA. However, the Senate version does not include this funding which makes the reinstatement of OTA unlikely to become law. A recording of the hearing and a statement from Chairwoman Johnson can be found on the SST website and the full NAPA report can be found on the NAPA website.

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Posted in Issue 24 (December 10), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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