Issue 14 (July 28)
In this issue…
Congressional Activities & News
- Senate Appropriations Committee Releases Text of FY 2015 Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill
- Senate Commerce Committee Releases Draft COMPETES/NSF Bill
Federal Agency & Administration Activities & News
- Cora Marrett to Leave NSF
- NIGMS Request for Information: Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award
- NIH Issues Challenge to Find Advances Tied to NIGMS Support
- SMRB Discusses Pre-College Engagement in Biomedical Science; NIH Director Reflects on Impact of the Sequester
- Rising Mortality Rates in Women in the U.S.: Role of Drug Abuse and Addiction
- National Humanities Council Meets as NEH Faces Budget Uncertainty, New Chairman
- NCHS Releases Data on Weight Misperception in Children, Sexual Orientation-Based Health Disparities
- Interagency Statistical Forum Publishes Special Report on Young Adults
Notable Publications & Community Events
- AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition Reflects on Five Years
- IOM Workshop Asks “Can Food Be Addictive?”
COSSA Member Activities
COSSA Action & Outreach
- COSSA Endorses AAAS Statement on Disabilities Treaty Ratification
- COSSA Urges Increased Funding for Transportation Statistics Agency
On July 24, the Senate Appropriations Committee released bill language and the accompanying Committee report for the fiscal year (FY) 2015 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations bill. The Labor-HHS Subcommittee approved the bill via voice vote in June. It is still unclear when or if the measure will be considered by the full Appropriations Committee. Instead, it is all but certain that Congress will enact a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to allow time to complete the FY 2015 appropriations process after the November elections. The Senate Appropriations Committee also released draft bills and subcommittee reports on July 24 for the Energy and Water and the Financial Services appropriations bills. Under regular order, these reports are usually not released before consideration by the full Appropriations Committee. COSSA’s full analysis of the Labor-HHS bill will appear in the next COSSA Washington Update. COSSA’s preliminary analysis can be found here.
Earlier this month, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee released a draft of its America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2014 for public input. The America COMPETES Act is bipartisan legislation originally enacted in 2007 and reauthorized in 2010 to revitalize the U.S. scientific enterprise by making critical investments in U.S. basic science agencies. These investments were intended to ensure the U.S.’s continued standing as the global leader in science and technology innovation. COMPETES serves as authorizing legislation for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and federal STEM education programs.
The draft Senate bill is a major improvement over its House counterpart, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act, or FIRST Act (H.R. 4186), which was reported out of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in May. As previously reported, the FIRST Act is of major concern to the research community for several reasons; particularly its intent to cut the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate at NSF by more than 40 percent and, more generally, for its lack of vision for the U.S. scientific enterprise. (more…)
Earlier this month, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that Cora B. Marrett, NSF Deputy Director, will resign her position effective August 24. Marrett was confirmed as Deputy Director in 2011 and has served previously as NSF’s acting director. More notably for the COSSA community, Marrett served as the first assistant director for the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate, and is a former assistant director of the Education and Human Resources Directorate. She is a major voice for social and behavioral science, within NSF and publicly, and has been a familiar face at COSSA events over the years. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ranking Member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, issued a statement on July 24 thanking Marrett for her service to NSF.
The National Institute of General Medical Science (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently issued a time-sensitive Request for Information (RFI) for input to assist in its planning for a potential new program tentatively called the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA). According to NIGMS, MIRA is intended to be a grant in support of all of the research supported by the institute in an investigator’s laboratory. The Institute is planning to issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement to test the new program on a pilot scale. Accordingly, it is seeking feedback from the scientific community. (more…)
The National Institute of General Medical Science (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is seeking the public’s help in capturing the Institute’s progress toward its strategic goal: “to advance awareness and understanding of the basic biomedical research enterprise, including its value, requirements, and potential impact.” The Institute has issued a challenge to the scientific community with the goal of identifying past advances that are serving (or have served) to improve human health and well-being. It excludes ongoing studies that may, in the future, have a major impact.
NIGMS intends to use the examples to help inform the historical context of scientific breakthroughs and the Institute’s role in supporting them. The examples will supplement NIGMS’ ongoing efforts to link advances in human health and well-being to taxpayer-supported basic research and to stimulate further innovation by explaining the value and the impact of basic research on human health.
Submissions are expected to be a written document that describes the basic research and how it directly led to improvements in human health, well-being, or other tangible benefits to the public; NIGMS support must have played a major/critical role in one or more of the underlying discoveries. A history of continuous or exclusive NIGMS support is not required.
The focus of the submission must fall into one or both of the following categories:
- Major advances funded by NIGMS that have led to improvements in human health, well-being, or other tangible benefits to the public.
- Applications in medicine, industry, technology, or elsewhere that have their roots in NIGMS-funded research projects. Examples include commonly used diagnostics, therapeutics, devices, or technologies used in medical, industrial, agricultural, or other fields.
NIGMS plans to select up to ten winners, who will receive $500 prizes and recognition on the NIGMS website. Submissions are due by October 20, 2014. For additional requirements, judging criteria, FAQs, and other information, see NIGMS’ website.
SMRB Discusses Pre-College Engagement in Biomedical Science; NIH Director Reflects on Impact of the Sequester
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) held a two-day meeting on July 7-8, 2014. The SMRB was authorized by the NIH Reform Act of 2006. The statute provides certain organizational authorities to the Department of Health and Human Services and NIH on which the SMRB provides advice. The meeting’s agenda included reflections from NIH director Francis Collins, and a full day discussion of pre-college engagement in biomedical science led by the SMRB Working Group on Pre-college Engagement in Biomedical Science (PEBS). (more…)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) director Nora Volkow recently discussed the role of substance abuse in the “Rising Mortality Rates in Women in the U.S.,” the subject of a July 15 Women’s Policy, Inc.- sponsored congressional briefing. Susan Dentzer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), moderated the session.
According to Dentzer, the briefing was designed to address the data in the 2013 National Research Council (NRC) and Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health (see Update, October 7, 2013), also the subject of an earlier congressional briefing sponsored by the Coalition for the Advancement of Health Through Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (CAHT-BSSR), a COSSA-led coalition co-chaired by deputy director Angela Sharpe. Dentzer highlighted research by David A. Kindig and Erika R. Cheng which examined the trends in age-adjusted mortality rates in U.S. counties between 1992 and 2006 and found that “even as mortality fell in most U.S. counties, female mortality rose in 42.8 percent of counties during this period.” (more…)
The National Council on the Humanities, the advisory body to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), met on July 10 and 11. The meeting was presided over by NEH’s Acting Chairman Carole Watson, who has been leading the agency since Jim Leach left in May. Watson observed that it has been a time of change for NEH, which recently relocated from its home of more than 30 years in the Old Post Office Building to new offices in Constitution Center. In addition, President Obama’s nominee to lead the agency, William “Bro” Adams, former president of Colby College, had recently been confirmed by the Senate. Adams was sworn in on July 22, beginning his tenure as Chairman. (more…)
A recent National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data brief looks at children’s (8-15 years old) misperception of their weight status. When asked if they felt they were too thin, overweight, or about right, 30 percent of children’s responses did not match their weight status. This misperception was more common among boys (32.2 percent) than girls (28 percent). Seventy-six percent of overweight children and 41.9 percent of obese children described themselves as “about right.” Nearly half (48.5 percent) of underweight children also described themselves as “about right.” More than 12 percent of healthy weight children (over 2 million) believed themselves to be too thin or too fat. Weight misperception also varied by race and ethnicity; it was higher among non-Hispanic black (34.4 percent) and Mexican-American (34 percent) children than non-Hispanic white children (27.7 percent). The data comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2005-2012.
NCHS has also released its first sexual orientation-based health data, drawn from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), as a new National Health Statistics Report, Sexual Orientation and Health Among U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2013. Based on interviews with adults ages 18-64, the report indicates that 96.6 percent of adults identified as straight, 1.6 percent as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent as bisexual, with the remainder answering “don’t know,” “something else,” or refusing to answer. The report found higher rates of smoking and binge drinking among gay or lesbian and bisexual adults. Overall, there were no significant differences between straight-identified and lesbian-, gay-, or bisexual-identified adults based on physical activity, self-reported health, or uninsurance rates (although there was some variation by gender). A higher percentage of gay and lesbian adults received an influenza vaccine (42.9 percent) than straight adults (35 percent).
The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics has published a report, America’s Young Adults: Special Issue, 2014, that pulls data from nationally representative federal surveys on the demographics; education; economic circumstances; family formation; civic, social, and personal behavior; and health and safety of adults aged 18-24. A press release about the report notes: “American young adults are more racially and ethnically diverse, more likely to graduate from high school, and attend college, and less likely to smoke than previous generations… However, the young adults have more student debt than generations past, earn less than their counterparts in the year 2000, and more than 1 in 5 are obese.” (more…)
The Science and Human Rights Coalition of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) held its biannual meeting on July 14 and 15. COSSA is a member of the Coalition, which is a “network of scientific and engineering membership organizations that recognize a role for scientists and engineers in human rights.” This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Coalition’s founding, and the meeting provided an opportunity for members to look back on what has been accomplished and consider new directions for the future. An anniversary celebration is planned for October of this year. (more…)
The Food Forum at the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) held a workshop on July 9 and 10 on Relationships between the Brain, Digestive System, and Eating Behavior. The Food Forum is chaired by Francis Busta, University of Minnesota, St. Paul. Eric Decker, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, chaired the workshop planning committee. Early presentations explored the physiological interactions between the brain and the digestive system, and later sessions assessed the science and methodologies behind the “food addiction” model. (more…)
We are delighted to welcome the American Academy of Arts & Sciences to the COSSA membership. Headquartered in Cambridge, MA, the Academy is one of the nation’s oldest learned societies and serves as an independent policy research center, providing “authoritative and nonpartisan policy advice to decision-makers in government, academia, and the private sector.” We are thrilled that they have joined the COSSA community. COSSA’s full membership list can be viewed online.
COSSA has endorsed the statement of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Board of Directors urging the Senate to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Adopted in 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly, the CRPD has been ratified by 146 countries. The U.S. was a signatory on the treaty, but previous attempts to ratify it in the Senate have failed. The Convention may again be brought to the Senate as early as this summer. (more…)
On July 15, COSSA joined several other national associations on a letter to Transportation Committee chairs and ranking members in the House and Senate urging increased funding for the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) at the U.S. Department of Transportation in fiscal year (FY) 2015. As the letter reads, “The BTS is the principal source of timely, accurate, and objective information on the current state, safety, and performance of highway, rail, air, maritime, and pipeline transportation systems.”
Two requests from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) give social and behavioral scientists the opportunity to provide input:
- To highlight discoveries and breakthroughs that have been enabled by funding from the Institute, and
- Respond to its time-sensitive Request for Information (RFI) to assist the Institute in its planning for a potential new program tentatively called Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA).
Late last week, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee released a draft of its America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2014. The Committee is seeking comment from interested organizations by this Friday, July 25, which can be sent to committee staff. COSSA intends to support the legislation.
The America COMPETES Act is bipartisan legislation originally enacted in 2007 and reauthorized in 2010 to revitalize the U.S. scientific enterprise by making critical investments in U.S. basic science agencies. These investments were intended to ensure the U.S.’s continued standing as the global leader in science and technology innovation. COMPETES serves as authorizing legislation for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and federal STEM education programs.
The draft Senate bill is a major improvement over its House counterpart, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act, or FIRST Act (H.R. 4186), which was reported out of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in May. As previously reported, the FIRST Act is of major concern to the research community for several reasons; particularly its intent to cut the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate at NSF by more than 40 percent and, more generally, for its lack of vision for the U.S. scientific enterprise.
Increased NSF Funding
Unlike the FIRST Act, the Senate draft would maintain current practice when it comes to funding NSF, which is to not provide specific authorization levels for NSF’s individual research directorates. Instead, the Senate bill provides an authorization only for NSF’s top-line budget and high level subaccounts. For fiscal year (FY) 2015, the Senate bill would authorize an NSF budget of $7.65 billion, which if appropriated, would be an increase of more than 6.5 percent over the FY 2014 level. It also represents a 5 percent increase over the amount authorized for NSF in the FIRST Act. Further, while the FIRST Act would only authorize NSF for FY 2014 (the current fiscal year) and FY 2015, the Senate bill seeks a five-year authorization, with the NSF budget growing by more than 6.5 percent each year to a total of $9.9 billion by FY 2019.
Support for Social, Behavioral and Economic Science
In addition to the positive proposed funding levels, the draft Senate bill maintains the Committee’s support for all areas of science, placing specific emphasis on the social and behavioral sciences. It includes a number of examples of social science investments that have addressed societal challenges, including in medicine, policing, national defense, and disaster preparedness, and states that it is the sense of Congress that, “if the United States is to remain innovative and globally competitive, [NSF] must continue to meet its legislative mandate through… robust support for basic research across a wide range of science and engineering fields, including the social, behavioral, and economic sciences.”
Senate Commerce Committee Hearing
Prior to the release of the draft COMPETES bill, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing titled, “The Federal Research Portfolio: Capitalizing on Investments in R&D,” to receive testimony on the value of investment in NSF and other federal science agencies. Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) noted during the hearing that “Congress has no business deciding which projects are worth federal funding,” referring to recent Republican attacks on specific grants and adding that scientists and the peer review process should be trusted to make such decisions.
Witnesses included Dr. Vinton G. Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google and member of the National Science Board; Ms. Mariette DiChristina, Editor in Chief and Senior Vice President for Scientific American; Dr. Neal F. Lane, Senior Fellow and professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University, and Co-Chair of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences Committee on New Models for U.S. Science and Technology Policy; and Dr. Stephen E. Fienberg, Maurice Falk University Professor of Statistics and Social Science at Carnegie Mellon University and member of the National Research Council Committee on Assessing the Value of Research in Advancing National Goals. Witnesses spoke about the federal government’s unique role in supporting and sustaining R&D investments, particularly given that industry often shies away from funding basic science. In addition, they spoke of the importance of failure in research, noting that understanding the reason for failure can often be more valuable than positive results. Dr. Cerf explained that the Internet took 10 years of research, and failure, before becoming operational.
A webcast of the hearing and witness testimony can be found on the Committee’s website.
The outlook for further action on NSF reauthorization legislation this year remains unknown. The FIRST Act has not yet received a vote by the full House, although a number of noncontroversial components of the bill were stripped out and passed as standalone bills last week (STEM Education Act [H.R. 5031], Research and Development Efficiency Act [H.R. 5056], and International Science and Technology Cooperation Act of 2014 [H.R. 5029]). It is not yet clear if/when the Senate Commerce Committee will introduce its bill and mark it up. In addition, the House and Senate are preparing to leave town for their month-long August recess in a couple of weeks, and the November elections leave few remaining legislative days.