Issue 10 (May 12)


COSSA Advocates Tell Congress to Use Social Science to Fight COVID-19

On April 28, about 40 social and behavioral scientists and stakeholders participated in COSSA’s sixth annual Social Science Advocacy Day, meeting virtually with Members of Congress and their staff about the many ways social and behavioral science is helping to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Advocates representing 16 states participated, holding 58 individual meeting with Congressional offices. Materials used to help explain the unique contributions the social and behavioral sciences make to fighting COVID-19 and to address other pressing national issues are available on COSSA’s Advocacy Resources page. You can help amplify this message by responding to COSSA’s Action Alert on social science and the COVID-19 crisis.

COSSA is particularly grateful to the event’s sponsors, who chose to continue to support Advocacy Day without an in-person component. Sincere thanks to the American Anthropological Association, American Educational Research Association, American Evaluation Association, American Psychological Association, American Society of Criminology, American Sociological Association, Association of American Universities, Boston University, Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, National Communication Association, Penn state Social Science Research Institute, Population Association of America, Princeton University, SAGE Publishing, Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and Society for Research and Child Development.

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Congress Remains Focused on COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, Congress continues to prioritize attention to combatting the disease and addressing the resulting economic repercussions. As lawmakers argue about the contents of another supplemental appropriations bill, a pair of Dear Colleague Letters (DCL) have been circulated in the House and Senate in support of $26 billion for federal research agencies in the next COVID-19 package. The House letter, sponsored by Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI), garnered 178 signatories and the Senate letter, sponsored by Ed Markey (D-MA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), had 33 signatories. The timeline for future supplemental bills is still unclear.

On May 6, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) held a hearing addressing the ongoing COVID-19 response. The Subcommittee heard testimony from President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tom Frieden, and Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Caitlin Rivers. Members of the Subcommittee and the witnesses discussed a variety of issues related to the pandemic, including the best methods for reopening parts of the economy, the role of contact tracing in identifying at-risk individuals, best public health practices for rural communities, and the production timeline of a vaccine and other medical supplies. A major topic of discussion was the possibility of the Appropriations Committee to initiate a Health Defense Operations (HDO) account intended to address immediate public health crises such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. This account would be structured similarly to the often-controversial Department of Defense’s Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account and would allow much greater flexibility in funding public health initiatives without being affected by budget caps or competing with other discretionary accounts. A recording of the hearing and the witnesses’ testimonies are available on the Committee website.

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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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Golden Goose Award Seeks Nominations Related to COVID-19 Research

The Golden Goose Award, which typically recognizes federally funded research that may initially sound odd, obscure, or serendipitous, but ends up having a major impact on society, is planning to use its 2020 Awards to highlight federally funded research that has had a significant and demonstrable impact in responding to COVID-19. More information on nomination criteria is available on the Golden Goose website. The deadline for nominations is May 22, 2020.

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May’s Headlines Webchat to Feature a Deep Dive Conversation with Epidemiologist Natalie Dean

COSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly Headlines webchat on Thursday May 14. The COSSA team will break down the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer your questions. This month’s deep dive will feature a conversation with University of Florida epidemiologist Natalie Dean, who will answer your questions about studying a pandemic. Ron Wasserstein, Executive Director of the American Statistical Association, will moderate the discussion. Participants may submit questions in advance by emailing Julia Milton ( Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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COSSA Submits Senate Testimony in Support of Social Science at NSF, Census, NIJ and BJS

Each year, COSSA submits outside witness testimony to the Congressional Appropriations subcommittees responsible for funding federal agencies important to the social sciences. Earlier this month, COSSA submitted testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies calling for robust funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Bureau of Justice Statistics, and Census Bureau in fiscal year (FY) 2021. All of COSSA’s FY 2021 testimony will be posted on the COSSA website.

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COPAFS Names New Executive Director

The Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics (COPAFS) has announced the selection of Paul Schroeder as its next executive director effective May 15. Schroeder has previously held positions at the research firm EurekaFacts, Abt Associates, and Westat. Schroeder holds a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Virginia. He succeeds Cynthia Clark, who has led the organization since December 2018. COSSA congratulates Schroeder on his appointment and looks forward to continuing to work closely with COPAFS on issues affecting federal statistical agencies.

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