Blog Archives

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)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Responding to Extreme Weather Events, Highlights Social & Behavioral Science Solutions

On September 26, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (SST) held a hearing on understanding, forecasting, and communicating about extreme weather and other events related to climate change. Witnesses included J. Marshall Shepard, Director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program in the Department of Geography at the University of Georgia; James Done, Project Scientist and Willis Research Fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research; Adam Sobel, Professor of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Director and Chief Scientist of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate at Columbia University; Berrien Moore, Director of the National Weather Center at the University of Oklahoma; and Ann Bostrom, Weyerhaeuser Endowed Professor in Environmental Policy at the University of Washington.

Members of both parties expressed their concern with changing patterns of extreme weather and questioned witnesses on prevailing weather research and opportunities to improve responsiveness to severe weather events. Much discussion revolved around the role of social and behavioral science research, with Members Randy Weber (R-TX) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) questioning Dr. Bostrom on how to incorporate social and behavioral science research in extreme weather responses and if there were any current gaps or barriers in that research. Other topics discussed during the hearing were the Mesonet environmental monitoring network in Oklahoma, weather infrastructure needs of the Southeastern United States, and potential improvements in government responses to extreme weather events. An opening statement from Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and a recording of the hearing can be found on the SST Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 1), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Science Committee to Host Hearing on Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work

The Research and Technology Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will host a hearing on Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work on September 24. The hearing will feature Dr. Arthur Lupia, Assistant Director for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation; Dr. Erik Brynjolfsson, Professor of Management Science and Director at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy; Ms. Rebekah Kowalski, Vice President of Manufacturing Services at the ManpowerGroup; and Dr. Sue Ellspermann, President of Ivy Tech Community College. Dr. Lupia is expected to discuss the NSF Ten Big Ideas, including Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier. The hearing can be watched live online at 2:00pm on September 24, and will be recorded on the Science Committee website.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 17), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Scientific Integrity at Federal Agencies

On July 17, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hosted a joint subcommittee hearing on scientific integrity in federal agencies. The hearing, which was hosted by the Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, included discussion of current and past issues of scientific integrity in the federal government and H.R. 1709, the Scientific Integrity Act. The Scientific Integrity Act, introduced by Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY), directs federal agencies that fund or direct public science to establish and maintain clear scientific integrity principles and formalizes existing scientific integrity policies. The bill also clarifies that science within the federal government should determine policy without political, ideological, or financial conflicts of interest.

Witnesses included John Neumann, the Managing Director of Science and Technology Assessment at the Government Accountability Office (GAO); Michael Halpern, the Deputy Director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists; Dr. Roger Pielke, a professor in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado; and Joel Clement of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. Both Democrat and Republican members of the committee emphasized the importance of scientific integrity in their statements, but recommended different approaches moving forward; Democrats recommended the committee advance the Scientific Integrity Act, while Republicans argued that the issue of scientific integrity was being politicized and science advice was being inappropriately conflated with policy recommendations.

A recording of the hearing and statements from committee leadership and witnesses can be found on the committee’s website.

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

House Science Committee Hosts Hearing on Societal and Ethical Implications of Artificial Intelligence

On June 26, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hosted a hearing to examine the societal and ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI). The committee heard testimony from Meredith Whittaker of the AI Now Institute at New York University, Jack Clark of OpenAI, Joy Boulamwini of the Algorithmic Justice League, and Georgia Tourassi of the Health Data Sciences Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Committee Members and witnesses discussed the impact of AI on bias, the changing nature of work due to AI, and the impact of AI on the economy, including the delivery of healthcare. Social science was highlighted multiple times as one of the areas where additional research is most needed. The Science Committee is expected to begin working on bipartisan legislation to support a national strategy on AI in the coming months. A recording of the hearing and copies of witness statements are available on the committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 9), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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)

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