Issue 13 (June 23)
COSSA in Action
Federal Agency & Administration News
- Sethuraman Panchanathan Confirmed as Next NSF Director
- Nomination Opportunities
- Funding Opportunities
- Notices & Requests for Comment
- Recent Reports
- Open Positions
Community News & Reports
- SEAN Releases Rapid Consultation on Evaluating Types of COVID-19 Data
- Scientific Community Responds to Racism and Police Violence through #ShutDownSTEM Campaign
- Nomination Opportunities
COSSA Member Spotlight
On June 22, President Trump issued a proclamation further extending restrictions on foreign travel to the United States in order to reduce the competitiveness of the U.S. labor market. The proclamation argues that due to the economic downturn and resulting unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic, foreign workers “pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.” The proclamation prohibits the entry of foreign workers under several visa categories commonly used by science and academic institutions to hire employees with unique skills and specialized training, including H-1B and H-4 visas, for skilled workers and their spouses respectively; J-1 visas, for scholarly and other cultural exchanges; most H-2B visas, for nonagricultural workers; and L-1 visas, for foreign employees of companies to transfer to U.S. locations. The proclamation takes effect on June 24 and will remain in effect through the end of 2020.
Many scientific and higher education organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association of American Universities (AAU), and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), have issued statements criticizing the proclamation, arguing that preventing the entry of skilled workers to the U.S. will reduce the competitiveness of American industry and stifle scientific progress.
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.
On June 18, the Senate confirmed Sethuraman Panchanathan to be the 15th Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), an agency that had been without a Senate-confirmed director since France Córdova’s term expired in March. Panchanathan, who was nominated to lead the agency in January, holds a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering and serves as the Executive Vice President of Knowledge Enterprise Development and as Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Arizona State University. He has also served on the National Science Board since 2014.
The timeline for the Senate to consider Panchanathan’s nomination was delayed significantly by the transition away from in-person hearings caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the interim, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Kelvin Droegemeier served as Acting Director of NSF until Panchanathan was confirmed (see previous COSSA coverage for more details). More information on Panchanathan’s confirmation is available on the Senate website.
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.
On June 10, several academic and scientific organizations participated in the Shut Down STEM campaign, forgoing business as usual to instead reflect upon racism and police violence and its effect on science and research. Participants in #ShutDownSTEM took action in several ways, including the cancelling meetings, classes, and research activities, discussing potential methods to improve the research climate for Black researchers, and participating in a broader social media campaign using the hashtags #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia. More information can be found on shutdownstem.com.
The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), a COSSA governing member, has announced the selection of Rachel Puffer as its next Executive Director effective July 7. Puffer currently serves as the Vice President for Membership and Meetings at the Gerontological Society of America. Brian Riddleberger, SPSP’s Chief Operating Officer, has been serving as Interim Executive Director during the search and will return to his COO role. COSSA congratulates Puffer on her appointment and looks forward to continuing to work with SPSP to advance the social and behavioral sciences.
We stand in solidarity with those protesting against the abuses of police power and the racist systems that perpetuate this violence. One of the fundamental lessons from the social sciences is that our lives are governed by social systems that were designed to bestow advantages and disadvantages unequally. While the social sciences have helped to illuminate those structures and the inequities and harms they create, the science community has failed to effectively address them within the scientific enterprise itself.
While we cannot undo the horrific injustices of the past, we are committed to eradicating the scourge of white supremacy—both within the sciences themselves and in our own communities. In our collective efforts to confront the daily suffering perpetuated by racism and racist systems, we can bring the strength of the social and behavioral sciences to bear on society’s greatest challenges—to understand and work toward real change.
COSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly Headlines webchat on Thursday, June 11 at 2:00 pm Eastern. The COSSA team will break down the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month, followed by a deep dive discussion with Allegheny College Dean for Institutional Diversity Kristin Dukes, PhD, a social psychologist whose work has focused on police violence against racial and ethnic minorities. Participants may submit questions in advance by emailing Julia Milton (email@example.com). Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.
While Congressional leaders continue to negotiate their next response to the COVID-19 pandemic and, now, renewed calls for policing reforms in the wake of the killings of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement, lawmakers are also looking to make progress on the fiscal year (FY) 2021 appropriations bills. According to House leadership, the House of Representatives will work to pass its FY 2021 bills ahead of the month-long August recess. This leaves the House with less than two months to write, mark-up and bring to the floor all twelve annual spending bills. The Senate has not yet released plans for moving ahead on FY 2021 appropriations, though leaders have expressed hopes to begin in late June.
Advocates, including COSSA, are busy making their final pitches to Congress for next year’s funding. A major unknown this year is the impact that recently enacted supplemental funding to address the COVID-19 outbreak will have on regular appropriations. COSSA will report on the details of the annual spending bills for federal science agencies over the next several weeks. You can follow our coverage at: https://cossa.org/policy.
On June 5, Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and David McKinley (R-WV) introduced the Social Sciences Protect Our Nation Act (H.R. 7106), a bill that would require the Department of Defense (DOD) to maintain a basic social sciences research program. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), Chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities, joined as an original co-sponsor of the legislation. The bill was introduced in response to DOD’s plans to cut Defense-wide funding for social and behavioral science research, including the Minerva Research Initiative, a university-based social science research program, in the coming fiscal year. According to the legislation, “Maintaining a basic social sciences research program provides the Department of Defense critical access to expertise to inform cultural understanding, support technological edge, counter adversarial social interventions, and understand drivers to strengthen alliances and attract new partners.”
COSSA released a statement on the legislation that was included in a press release from Rep. Lipinski’s office:
“The Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) applauds Representatives Daniel Lipinski and David McKinley for introducing the Social Sciences Protect Our Nation Act, which recognizes the essential role basic social and behavioral science research plays in supporting national defense and the need for such research to have a home within the Defense Department, where it can be put to immediate use. Social science research has enhanced America’s national security by improving our understanding of complex dynamics such as terrorism and radicalization, gang behavior, political instability, and demographic shifts in nations around the world. The Social Sciences Protect Our Nation Act will ensure that this research continues to thrive within our national security enterprise.”
Upon its introduction, the legislation was referred to the House Armed Services Committee, although a timeline for consideration is unclear.
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has posted a vacancy announcement for the position of Chief Statistician of the United States, following the departure of former Chief Statistician Nancy Potok at the end of 2019. The Chief Statistician oversees OMB’s Statistical Policy and Science Branch and is responsible for implementing cross-agency data and statistics policies, including the Federal Data Strategy and the implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. The window for applications closes on June 29.
On May 27, Mark Schneider, the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) within the Department of Education, issued an announcement of new Requests for Applications (RFA) for several of the Institute’s largest grant programs for fiscal year (FY) 2021 as well as updates to some of the Institute’s programs. The Requests for Applications are mainly in the Education Research and Training Grant Programs and in Special Education Research and Training Grant Programs. A full list of the RFAs are available on the IES website.
Some of the programmatic changes mentioned in the announcement include higher funding limits to meet growing demands for dissemination and the reorganization of the programs at the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) into fewer, broader program topics. According to the announcement, the changes were guided by the Institute’s Standards for Excellence in Education Research (SEER). Director Schneider’s announcement and more information are available on the IES website.