Issue 21 (November 17)


More Questions than Answers Following Midterm Elections

Following last week’s midterm Congressional elections, Republicans have gained control of both chambers of Congress when the 114th Congress is seated in January. Congress returned last week for the start of a month and a half-long lame duck session. On their plate includes must-pass legislation such as the fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations bills and defense authorization bill. However, with the party calculus significantly changed starting next year, action on spending bills and other legislative issues in the lame duck will be all but easy. See the articles that follow for more information. (more…)

COSSA & Partners Urge Congress to Complete FY 2015 Omnibus Spending Bill

On November 12, COSSA joined the biomedical and behavioral science community in signing the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research letter to Congress. The letter, which was signed by 303 organizations, urges Congress to “complete an omnibus spending package [that] includes a Labor-HHS-Education bill that restores funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to at least pre-sequestration levels.” The letter also notes, “An omnibus spending bill with a Labor-HHS appropriation restoring NIH to at least pre-sequester funding levels would mark an important step toward a more sustainable, predictable research environment for patients and their families, as well as for those working to address disease. It also would be a step in the right direction to close the innovation deficit.”

On November 14, COSSA joined its partners in the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) on a letter similarly urging Congress to appropriate sustainable funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in a FY 2015 omnibus bill.

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Scientific Community to Congress: Close the Innovation Deficit

On November 12, COSSA joined 133 partners throughout the scientific, higher education, business and patient communities on a letter to Congress urging passage of an omnibus fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations bills addresses the “innovation deficit” by including increased investments for scientific research and higher education. As the letter states, “the innovation deficit is the widening gap between the actual level of federal government funding for research and higher education and what the investment needs to be if the United States is to remain the world’s innovation leader… [T]oday, our leadership faces a serious challenge from other nations that are rapidly increasing their investments in these critical areas while our own spending lags.”

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Congress Returns for Lame Duck Session

Congress returned to Washington on November 12 for the start of the post-election lame duck session. Among the must-pass actions in this lame duck session are the fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations bills. The current continuing resolution (CR) that has kept the federal government in operation since the start of the fiscal year on October 1 expires on December 11. Leadership and staff of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have been working behind the scenes on an omnibus bill that would package all twelve of the unpassed appropriations measures into a single package. The goal is to bring the bill to the floor in the House and Senate during the week of December 8, prior to the expiration of the CR. However, support on this approach from rank-and-file members of both parties appears to be waiting on the details of the bill. Other issues—such as impending Executive action on immigration—could further complicate the final negotiations on an FY 2015 appropriations package. Another short-term CR may be in the offing to avoid another government shutdown after December 11. See the articles above for recent COSSA action on FY 2015 funding.

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NSF Releases Report on Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science

The National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) has released its biennial report, Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, which provides statistical details on women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering education and employment. The data in the 2013 Digest, which is released every two years as mandated by the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act (Public Law 96-516), are publicly accessible online and organized by the following themes: enrollment, field of degree, employment status, occupation, academic employment, and persons with disabilities.

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White House Issues Report on Expanding Opportunity and Addressing Challenges Facing Women and Girls of Color

On November 13, the White House Council on Women and Girls (CWG) released a report, Women and Girls of Color: Addressing Challenges and Expanding Opportunity. The Council is chaired by Valerie Jarrett. The report highlights the tremendous achievements women of color have made; it also examines the inequities and “distinct” challenges facing women of color and looks at efforts underway to close the gaps in educational outcomes, pay, career opportunity, and health disparities, among other areas. (more…)

Academies Board Seeks Nominations for “How People Learn II” Study Committee

The National Academies’ Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS) is seeking nominations for individuals to serve on the study committee for a new project, “How People Learn II: The Science and Practice of Learning.” The study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, will build on the 2000 National Research Council report How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School “by reviewing and synthesizing research that has emerged across the various disciplines that focus on the study of learning from birth through adulthood in both formal and informal settings.”

BBCSS is particularly interested in individuals with experience in cognitive science, learning theory, cognitive neuroscience, learning sciences, educational psychology, workforce development, language and linguistics, culture and diversity, educational assessment, and education technology. Nominations should consist of the candidate’s name, affiliation, contact information, area(s) of expertise, and a brief statement on why he or she is relevant to the study topic. Nominations should be sent to Tina Winters at by November 30, 2014. More information is available on the BBCSS website.

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NIH: Cancer Prevention, Control, Behavioral Sciences, and Population Sciences Career Development Award

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently issued a funding opportunity announcement, Cancer Prevention, Control, Behavioral Sciences, and Population Sciences Career Development Award (PAR-15-033). The award supports the career development of junior investigators with research or health professional doctoral degrees who want to become cancer-focused academic researchers in cancer prevention, cancer control, or the behavioral or population sciences. The award provides salary and mentored research support for a sustained period of “protected time” to junior investigators who are interested in developing academic and research expertise in these health-related fields. NCI will contribute up to $100,000 per year toward the salary of the career award recipient and $30,000 per year toward research development costs.

For more information or to apply see the NIH website.

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Pedro Noguera Receives SAGE-CASBS Award

The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University (CASBS), a COSSA member, and SAGE Publications have named Pedro Noguera, New York University, as the 2014 recipient of the SAGE-CASBS award. Now in its second year, the SAGE-CASBS award recognizes “outstanding achievement in advancing the understanding of the behavioral and social sciences as they are applied to pressing social issues.” Noguera, a sociologist, is being recognized for his work on “how schools are influenced by social and economic conditions as well as by demographic trends in local, regional and global contexts.” More here.

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Events Calendar

Aging with HIV/AIDS: Challenges and Successes of a Lifetime Defined by the Epidemic, American Psychological Association, December 3, 2014

Webinar: Producing Government Data with Statistical Confidentiality Controls, American Statistical Association Privacy and Confidentiality Committee, December 17, 2014

A list of COSSA members’ annual meetings can be found on the COSSA web page.

Aging and Mental Health Institutes Seek Comments on Draft Strategic Plans

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are seeking public comment on the development of the Institutes’ strategic plans. The plans will guide the Institutes’ research priorities.

National Institute on Aging

The NIA recently released a request for information (RFI) seeking guidance on its strategic plan, Aging Well in the 21st Century: Strategic Directions for Research on Aging. The draft plan outlines NIA’s broad strategic directions for the Institute and “provides a point of reference for setting priorities and a framework for systematically analyzing the Institute’s scientific portfolio and assessing progress.” Its goals falls into three categories: understanding the dynamics of the aging process; improving health, well-being, and independence of adults as they age; and supporting the research enterprise.

The goals include:

  1. Better understand the biology of gaining and its impact on prevention, progression, and prognosis of disease and disability.
  2. Better understand the effects of personal and societal factors on aging, including the mechanisms through which these factors exert their effects.
  3. Develop effective interventions to maintain health and function and prevent or reduce the burden of age-related diseases, disorders, and disabilities.
  4. Improve our understanding of the aging brain, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Develop interventions to address Alzheimer’s and other age-related neurological conditions.
  5. Improve our understanding of the consequences of an aging society to inform intervention development and policy decisions.
  6. Understand health differences and develop strategies to improve the health status of older adults in diverse populations
  7. Support the infrastructure and resources needed to promote high quality research.
  8. Disseminate information to the public, medical and scientific communities, and policy makers about research and interventions.

Specifically, NIA would like feedback regarding (1) research needs and opportunities that should be added to the plan and (2) emerging research needs and future opportunities that should be included in the plan.

Responses will be accepted until December 15, 2014 and must be submitted via email to the NIA Office of Planning, Analysis and Evaluation at

National Institute of Mental Health

The National Institute of Mental Health’s revised Strategic Plan is intended to guide its priorities from 2015–2020. Accordingly, NIMH is inviting public comment and is specifically interested in receiving ideas for “scientific advancements, new technical capabilities or tools, or major challenge topics that promise substantial change to mental health research if pursued.” NIMH is the largest funding agency for mental health research.

In his message, NIMH director Tom Insel notes “that some scientists reject the concept of ‘directed science,’ believing that science rarely follows a plan.” Conversely, Insel noted, a strategic plan “can identify the most important problems and identify areas of traction.”

The 2015–2020 plan revises the original four high-level Strategic Objectives which are intended to serve as a “broad roadmap” for NIMH’s priorities.

These objectives include:

  1. Define the biological basis of complex behaviors;
  2. Chart mental illness trajectories to determine when, where, and how to intervene;
  3. Strive for prevention and cures; and
  4. Strengthen the public health impact of NIMH-supported research.

According to the revised draft plan, the Institute’s funding strategy is “to support a broad spectrum of investigator-initiated research in fundamental science, with increasing use of Institute-solicited initiatives for applied research where public health impact is a short-term measure of success.”

The revised plan also includes cross-cutting themes that are relevant to each of the objectives. These themes include: transforming diagnostics, accelerating therapeutics, the growing digital enterprise, transforming the trajectory of mental illnesses through preemptive medicine, global mental health, mental health disparities, partnerships, and training future research scientists.

Responses to the draft plan are due by December 11, 2014and can be submitted to: Additional information is available here.

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Policy Roundtable Seminar Focuses on Stimulating Innovation in Government

The National Academies’ Policy Roundtable of the Behavioral and Social Sciences held a seminar on October 30 focused on “Stimulating Effective Innovation in Government.” The Roundtable is chaired by David T. Ellwood of the Harvard Kennedy School and, beginning in 2015, will be directed by Arlene Lee, Director of the Committee on Law and Justice. For more on the Roundtable, see COSSA’s coverage of its last meeting.

Roundtable members are government users and producers of social and behavioral science research and behavioral social and scientists who have spent time in the government (the list of members is available on the Academies’ website). It provides a forum to “explore ways in which the behavioral and social sciences can better inform and otherwise contribute to more effective and efficient policies and programs of government.” (more…)

IOM Recommends Including Social/Behavioral Determinants in Electronic Health Records

On November 13, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released Capturing Social and Behavioral Domains and Measures in Electronic Health Records: Phase 2, which recommends a “concrete approach to including social and behavioral determinants in the clinical context to increase clinical awareness of the patient’s state, broadly considered, and to connect clinical, public health, and community resources for work in concert.” The report’s recommendations takes into consideration the “substantial empirical evidence of the contribution of social and behavioral factors to functional status and the onset, progression, and effective treatment of disease [that] has accumulated over the past four decades.” (more…)

APSA Releases Report on Improving Perception of Political Science

The American Political Science Association (APSA), a COSSA governing member, has published a report entitled Improving Public Perceptions of Political Science’s Value. The report was written by a task force chaired by Arthur Lupia, University of Michigan (a member of COSSA’s Board of Directors), charged with identifying ways APSA and its members can better explain to the public, policymakers, and the media the contributions political science makes to society. This project comes in the wake of several high-profile attacks by policymakers on the discipline, notably Sen. Tom Coburn’s successful attempt to restrict funding of political science projects at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2013. (more…)


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