Issue 12 (June 8)
On May 24th, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Committee on Accelerating Behavioral Science Through Ontology Development and Use (see previous coverage) held its first virtual workshop, “Why Are Ontologies and How Are They Used in Science?” which explored questions about the classification systems and knowledge structures that scientific disciplines use to establish shared labels, definitions, and frameworks. The workshop was spent establishing what ontologies are philosophically and how scientists usefully apply them into their work as well as discussing current ontologies, such as Research Domain Criteria (RDoC), which has been slowly implemented at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to encourage research on mental disorders and co-morbidities. Members of the panel made note that while there can never be a singular ontology for the behavioral sciences, the goal of the committee is to encourage the creation and utilization of ontologies to make research creation, evaluation, reproduction, and clinical application more efficient and well-rounded. More information is available on the Committee website.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellows will host a day-long symposium addressing “Health Inequities Exposed and Exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic’” on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. The symposium will feature expert panels on healthcare access, health literacy, and the long-term social, behavioral, and economic impacts of COVID-19 mitigation efforts. More information about the symposium is available here.
The Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) in both the House and the Senate recently held hearings to discuss the fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Since both hearings were held prior to the full release of President Biden’s FY 2022 budget request, much of the discussion focused on the proposed increase to the top-line budget for NIH as well as the proposal for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) as referenced in the Biden Administration’s “skinny budget” released earlier this year.
The House LHHS hearing was held on May 25 featuring testimony from NIH Director Francis Collins; Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Anthony Fauci; Director of the Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Diana Bianchi; Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Gary Gibbons; Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Norman Sharpless; and Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Nora Volkow. Appropriations Committee Chair and LHHS Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK), and many members of the Subcommittee expressed their steadfast support for NIH and for increases to the agency’s research budget. However, Members from both sides of the aisle voiced skepticism about the proposal for ARPA-H due to concerns of duplicating funds for existing NIH research. Other issues raised during the hearing included structural racism in research spaces, gun violence prevention research, NIH research on medicinal marijuana, and the recent work of the UNITE Initiative to promote diversity in biomedical career paths. A recording of the hearing is available on the House LHHS website.
The Senate LHHS hearing was held on May 26 featuring testimony from Dr. Collins; Dr. Fauci; Dr. Bianchi; Dr. Sharpless; Dr. Gibbons; Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) Eliseo Perez-Stable; and Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) Bruce Tromberg. Subcommittee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO) both expressed support for the proposed increases to NIH but still echoed concerns about the non-specific mission of ARPA-H as proposed. Other issues raised during the hearing included foreign influence in research, the effect of COVID-19 on children, gun violence prevention research, animal testing in research, and the impact of climate change on health. A recording of the hearing is available on the Senate LHHS website.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: On the Fast Track: NCRR Dissolved / NCATS Created by October 2011 (February 7, 2011)
In celebration of COSSA’s 40th anniversary, we are diving into the decades of Washington Update archives to share articles from years past that resonate with today’s news.
On January 14, Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent letters to [Congressional leaders] apprising them of her intent to establish the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) per the recommendation of NIH director Francis Collins and based on the recommendations from the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB). Sebelius also indicated that the “relevant NCRR functions and programs,” as appropriate, would be transferred to NCATS in FY 2011. Accordingly, noted Sebelius, NCRR [the National Center for Research Resources] “is no longer required”[…]
According to the Secretary:
“NIH has the potential to play a critical and catalytic role in advancing the translational sciences. The agency is expertly equipped to leverage its extant and emerging programs and resources to promote progress in this area. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, NIH is even better poised to deploy these resources. The provisions of the Act that authorize the NIH to establish a Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) equip the agency with flexibility to carry out therapeutic development projects. This underscores the expectation by Congress and the American public that NIH is to play a leading role in realizing the promise of translational medicine and advancing human health. . . Funding for this new organization is intended to come from existing resources of the programs that would move to NCATS. NIH will provide details of this reorganization once they have been finalized. NIH seeks to implement its plan at the beginning of FY 2012 in October 2011.”[…]
COSSA members can sign up for the monthly COSSA Headlines webchat to catch up on the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer your questions. Stick around for our deep dive discussion with former US Chief Statistician Nancy Potok on proposals for implementing a National Secure Data Service within the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.
On May 28, the Biden Administration released details of its fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request to Congress. A “skinny budget” with preliminary details was issued on April 9. As with any first budget of a new presidential administration, the blueprint outlines several shifts in priority from the last administration as well as proposals for new activities and initiatives. Of particular note, the Biden budget underscores the President’s commitment to science as a means for addressing large societal challenges, such as climate change, racism, and, of course, pandemic recovery. To this end, the budget request proposes some fairly major changes to U.S. research agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. In each case, the President wishes to create new entities within the agencies tasked with bridging the gap between research findings and the market, whether that be cures, therapeutics, new technologies, or other innovations or inventions.
Another major theme in the budget relates to equity and inclusion, particularly within the scientific enterprise. Significant increases are sought for programs and initiatives that would build capacity at research institutions by supporting, evaluating, and promoting best practices for fostering diverse and inclusive research environments.
Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the President’s proposals as they pertain to social and behavioral science research.