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Nominations Due Sept 17 for National Academies Committee on Accelerating Behavioral Science Through Ontology Development and Use

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is launching a consensus study on Accelerating Behavioral Science Through Ontology Development and Use to inform the development of classification systems and knowledge structures across the behavioral sciences. The study, which is being sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the American Psychological Association, will “define the scope of ontology development for behavioral science research (BSR), summarize the state of behavioral ontology development and use in BSR, and identify compelling use cases as well as approaches, gaps and challenges that need to be addressed in order to facilitate widespread ontology use in BSR.”

Nominations are being accepted for study committee members with expertise in psychological processes, behavioral measurement, machine learning, knowledge structures, ontology development (in behavioral science as well as in non-behavioral domains of science), and experience in leadership roles in high-profile journals covering behavioral phenomena applicable to human health and of trans-disease relevance. More information about the consensus study is available on the National Academies website. Nominations may be submitted through September 17.

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

Research!America Health Research Forum Features Pandemic Response Leaders

From September 8-11, Research!America virtually hosted the 2020 National Health Research Forum, an annual meeting bringing together leaders in the research community, federal agency officials, and national media to highlight current trends in health research and the effect of those trends on public policy decisions.  This year’s theme was Straight Talk: Securing a Science-Strong Future, which was stated to be a focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on multiple facets of the U.S. research enterprise. The virtual event featured appearances from several high level government officials including the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Director of the National Institutes of Health Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield, Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), and many others.

The speakers and panel discussions covered a wide swath of research related issues, including issues such as diversity and inclusion in research, equity in healthcare, the sustainability of the research enterprise, public confidence and behavior towards a COVID-19 vaccine, and the timeline for developing a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccines. Social and behavioral science was highlighted in several of the sessions, including those discussing public opinion of science and research, methods to increase compliance in COVID-19 prevention techniques, and in modeling behavior regarding flu vaccinations during a pandemic. In a notable segment, Dr. Fauci asserted during his speaking segment that he was confident for a vaccine to be ready by the end of 2020, but likely not before the November 3rd election. More information about the forum is available on the Research!America website.

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

Remembering James Jackson (1944-2020)

jacksonDr. James S. Jackson, renown social psychologist and Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, passed away on September 1. A pioneer in national and international surveys of Black populations, Dr. Jackson dedicated his career to understanding racial and ethnic influences on life course among African Americans across the lifespan.

He was a recognized leader and advocate for the social and behavioral sciences, evidenced by his appointments to national leadership positions and committees, including several advisory councils of the National Institutes of Health, the Board of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and countless others. He was appointed to the National Science Board by President Obama in 2014, on which he served for six years and chaired the Committee on External Engagement until earlier this year.

Dr. Jackson served as COSSA President in 2013-2014. “Despite his active research and teaching responsibilities and service on countless advisory bodies and committees, James continued to generously give of himself, his time and energy,” said COSSA Executive Director Wendy Naus. “As our President, James did not hesitate to offer his assistance to me as I tried to navigate being a new executive director in 2014. I am eternally grateful for having known James.”

Dr. Jackson left a lasting mark on social and behavioral science research and on COSSA. If you would like to leave a comment or remembrance, you may do so here.

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

SEAN Releases Guidance on Contact Tracing

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) (see COSSA’s previous coverage) has released a new rapid expert consultation, Encouraging Participation and Cooperation in Contact Tracing. The guidance draws on survey research to provide federal, state, and local decision-makers, with evidence-based strategies to enhance contact tracing efforts, such as partnering with trusted sources, offering incentives, giving advance notice, tailoring messaging, and accepting partial information. The guidance is available on the National Academies website.

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

SEAN Releases New Guidance on Protective Behaviors to Stem COVID-19

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) (see COSSA’s previous coverage) has released a new rapid expert consultation, Encouraging Adoption of Protective Behaviors to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19. The guidance, which draws on research from communication, social psychology, and behavioral economics as well as lessons learned from successful public health campaigns such as tobacco prevention and seatbelt use, offers a set of strategies to make adoption of preventive behaviors more likely as well as risk communication strategies. It is available both as a short infographic and as a more detailed report.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

National Academies Launch Study on COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has launched a fast-track study to develop a framework for planning the equitable distribution of vaccines against COVID-19. The study, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is responsible for producing a consensus report that considers the following questions:

  • “What criteria should be used in setting priorities for equitable allocation of vaccine?
  • How should the criteria be applied in determining the first tier of vaccine recipients? As more vaccine becomes available, what populations should be added successively to the priority list of recipients? How do we take into account factors such as:
    • Health disparities and other health access issues
    • Individuals at higher risk (e.g., elderly, underlying health conditions)
    • Occupations at higher risk (e.g., health care workers, essential industries, meat packing plants, military)
    • Populations at higher risk (e.g., racial and ethnic groups, incarcerated individuals, residents of nursing homes, individuals who are homeless)
    • Geographic distribution of active virus spread
    • Countries/populations involved in clinical trials
  • How will the framework apply in various scenarios (e.g., different characteristics of vaccines and differing available doses)?
  • If multiple vaccine candidates are available, how should we ensure equity?
  • How can countries ensure equity in allocation of COVID-19 vaccines?
  • For the US, how can communities of color be assured access to vaccination?
  • How can we communicate to the American public about vaccine allocation to minimize perceptions of lack of equity?
  • What steps should be taken to mitigate vaccine hesitancy, especially among high-priority populations?”

During the open session of the committee’s first meeting on July 27, National Academy of Medicine President Victor Dzau announced that the committee is planning to produce a discussion draft released for public comment by early September, hold a public workshop to collect additional feedback, and issue its final recommendations by early October. The study committee is co-chaired by Helene D. Gayle, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, and William H. Foege, Emeritus Presidential Distinguished Professor of International Health, Emory University. More information about the study is available on the National Academies website.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

AAAS Issues Draft Plan to Address Systemic Racism in the Sciences

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has released the first of three draft plans intended to address systemic racism in the sciences, Holding up a Mirror: Demographic Representation in AAAS Functions that Advance Careers. The plan outlines AAAS’s commitment and proposed actions to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion within its operations. Forthcoming draft plans will focus on AAAS programs and initiatives to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in science and engineering and on AAAS actions to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion with the AAAS as an organization. They are expected to be released by mid-September. Comments and suggestions may be submitted to suggestionsforaaas@aaas.org.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

SEAN Releases Rapid Consultation on Evaluating Types of COVID-19 Data

The Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN), a collaboration between the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Science Foundation (NSF) (see previous coverage), has released its first rapid expert consultation in response to COVID-19. The report, Evaluating Data Types: A Guide for Decision Makers using Data to Understand the Extent and Spread of COVID-19, is intended to assist leaders in understanding the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. It was released alongside an interactive tool to help policymakers explore the information in more detail. The consultation summarizes the benefits and drawbacks of seven specific COVID-19 measurements that decision-makers can consider as they use these measurements to respond to the outbreak: (1) confirmed cases, (2) hospitalizations, (3) emergency department visits, (4) reported confirmed COVID-19 deaths, (5) excess deaths, (6) fraction of viral tests that are positive, and (7) representative prevalence surveys. It also outlines five criteria decisionmakers can use in evaluating such data: representativeness, potential for systematic under- or over-estimation, uncertainty, time range, and geographical area. More about SEAN is available here.

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

National Academies Holds Webinar on COVID-19 and Extreme Environmental Events

The National Academies Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Board on Environmental Change and Society and Resilient America Roundtable convened a webinar on May 13 to discuss the social science aspects of potential emergencies that compound the current COVID-19 crisis with environmental hazards, such as fires, hurricanes, flooding, and heatwaves. The event featured experts from federal government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as universities, and nonprofit and community organizations. Panelists discussed the challenges of responding to emergencies and natural disasters amidst a pandemic and the need for social science to shed more light on how individuals and communities are likely to respond to such situations. A recording of the event is available on the NASEM website.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 26), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

NSF, National Academies Launch Network to Connect Social Scientists to COVID-19 Policymakers

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have formed the Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) to connect social and behavioral science researchers with decision-makers who are leading the response to COVID-19. SEAN will respond to the most pressing social, behavioral, and economic questions that are being asked by federal, state, and local officials by working with appropriate experts to quickly provide actionable answers. The network will be overseen by NASEM’s Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats and an executive committee co-chaired by Robert Groves of Georgetown University and Mary T. Bassett of Harvard University. More information is available in the press release announcing the network’s formation. One of the first public activities under the new network is the creation of a weekly archive of public opinion survey data and reports related to COVID-19. COSSA will continue to report on SEAN’s activities as more information becomes available.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 12), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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