Issue 11 (June 16)


HOT TOPIC: Scientific Organizations Reflect on Building “Trust in Science”

By Julia Milton, COSSA

The scientific community has been grappling with topics related to science communication and public trust in science lately. This spring, several major scientific organizations met to focus on these issues. To name a few, the National Academy of Science’s 2015 Henry and Bryna David Lecture was held on “Communicating the Value and Values of Science;” the AAAS’ annual Forum on Science and Technology Policy held not one, but two break-out sessions on “Public Opinion and Policy Making,” as well as an evening plenary lecture entitled “Science to Action: Thoughts on Convincing a Skeptical Public;” and the Academies’ Roundtable on Public Interfaces of the Life Sciences held a workshop, “Does the Public Trust Science? Trust and Confidence at the Intersections of the Life Sciences and Society.”

According to Pew Research Associate Director Cary Funk, the public generally has confidence in both the institution of science and scientists as a profession. However, when it comes to specific science-related issues like evolution, attitudes become more varied and may be correlated with factors like political ideology, education, and religiosity, depending on the topic. There is certainly a sense that “science” has been on the defensive lately as public policy debates on climate change, childhood vaccinations, and genetically modified foods generate controversy and incidents like the high-profile retraction of a study on attitudes toward same-sex marriage grab headlines. (more…)

Senate Committee Advances NSF, Census, Justice Spending Bill

On June 10, the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its version of the fiscal year (FY) 2016 CJS bill. The full Senate Appropriations Committee followed suit on June 11, advancing the bill to the Senate floor. The CJS bill provides annual funding to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and the Census Bureau and other federal statistical agencies. Like the House bill passed on June 4, the Senate CJS bill keeps within discretionary spending caps, translating to very small (if any) increases for agencies and programs of interest to the COSSA community. In fact, under the Senate proposal, NSF would see a fractional reduction below FY 2015; NIJ and the Bureau of Justice Statistics would be flat-funded; and the Census Bureau would be funded at levels much lower than the amounts requested for FY 2016.

Read COSSA’s full analysis of the Senate CJS bill here.

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NIH Issues Notice on Enhancing Reproducibility

On June 9, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Extramural Research (OER) issued a Notice (NOT-OD-15-103) in an effort to clarify and revise application instructions and review criteria “to enhance reproducibility of research findings through increased scientific rigor and transparency.”

The release of the Notice is to raise awareness and begin “culture shifts in the scientific community.” In a June 9 blog post, Sally Rockey, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, and Larry Tabak, Principal Deputy Director of NIH, explained, “These changes will prompt applicants and reviewers to consider issues, which—if ignored—may impede the transparency needed to reproduce key results and thereby slow scientific progress.”

The newly revised grant applications are intended to clarify NIH’s expectations regarding rigor and transparency and how it would like to see this described in applications. The instructions will highlight the need for applicants to describe details that may have been previously overlooked, the need for reviewers to consider such details in their reviews through revised review criteria, and minimize additional burden. The new instructions and review criteria will focus on four areas: (1) the scientific premise of the proposed research; (2) rigorous experimental design for robust and unbiased results; (3) consideration of relevant biological variables; and (4) authentication of key biological and/or chemical resources.

Pending approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NIH reports that the new revised grant application instructions will be incorporated into the application guide funding opportunity announcements in Fall 2015 for applications submitted for January 2016 due dates and beyond. Meanwhile, additional detailed information regarding the specifics of implementation is expected this fall. Additional information is available at here.

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Share Your Basic Research Success Stories

In a June 2 blog post, Jo Handelsman, Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), urged the scientific community to share examples of basic research that has yielded unexpected, yet important insights. Handelsman states, “One of the hallmarks of science is that the path to knowledge is often indirect, and that in addition to rigorous investigation, discovery is often shaped by serendipity, human curiosity, and sometimes even heroism.” Unfortunately, basic science, especially in the area of social science, continues to be attacked by some who fail to see the valuable ties between this research and future knowledge, applications, products, etc. You are encouraged to share your stories through social media using #BasicResearch. Share your stories with COSSA as well using @COSSADC and #Stand4Science.

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Members of Congress Address NIH Precision Medicine Working Group Workshop on Digital Health Data and Research Cohort Design

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) addressed a special session of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Council to the Director (ACD) Precision Medicine Initiative Working Group at the Public Workshop, Digital Health Data and Research Cohort Design, on the campus of Vanderbilt University on May 28-29.

The workshop is part of series by the ACD Working Group and builds on the April 28-29 workshop held on the NIH campus that focused on the development and implementation of a large national cohort, as well as identification of the unique scientific questions and opportunities of using such a large cohort. Two additional workshops are planned for July. The ACD Working Group is scheduled to submit its recommendations to the ACD at its September meeting, including a plan standing by to fund at the beginning of the fiscal year which begins October 1, should the Congress provide the necessary resources. (more…)

NIH Minority Health Institute Moves Ahead on Science Visioning of Health Disparities

At the June 9 meeting of National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NACMHD), outgoing Acting Director Yvonne Maddox updated the Council on the Institute’s Science Visioning process for health disparities research.  NIH Deputy Director Larry Tabak will serve as the Institute’s Acting Director until newly appointed director Eliseo Perez-Stable’s arrival in September.

To initiate the process, the Institute released a request for information in April (see Update, May 4, 2015).  Maddox reported that a trans-NIH Science Vision Advisory Group had been appointed and working groups are being established. The working groups will hold discussion forums around areas of science “to establish foundational concepts for advancing the science of health disparities research.”  The trans-NIH advisory group is populated by senior NIH leadership and led by Irene Dankwa-Mullan, Acting Deputy Director, NIMHD Division of Extramural Scientific Programs. (more…)

2015 Marks the 20th Anniversary of the Establishment of OBSSR

obssr receptionThe past two decades have seen increasing recognition of the importance of behavioral and social factors in the prevention and treatment of disability and disease.  OBSSR’s mission is to stimulate behavioral and social sciences research throughout NIH and to integrate these areas of research more fully into the NIH health research enterprise, thereby improving our understanding, treatment, and prevention of disease.

Please join the Coalition for the Advancement of Health through Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (CAHT-BSSR) to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research with a poster exhibition and reception featuring research supported by NIH institutes, centers, and offices.

June 24, 2015
345 Cannon House Office Building
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
RSVP here or via

For questions or more information contact:  Angela Sharpe ( or Patricia Kobor (

Participating NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices

Center for Scientific Review (CSR)
Fogarty International Center (FIC)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR)
Office of Disease Prevention (ODP).



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How People Learn II: The Science and Practice of Learning

On June 10, the National Research Council (NRC) Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE) Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BCSS) held its inaugural meeting to update and extend the 2000 NRC report, How People Learn.

The ad hoc committee is chaired by Cora Marrett, former Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation. Marrett observed that many things have changed since the original report was released and acknowledged the “phenomenal group of volunteers” tasked with updating the report. (more…)

Events Calendar

Making Changes: Learning from Social Science Research to Drive Behavior Change, Washington, DC, June 18, 2015

OBSSR 20th Anniversary Celebration, Bethesda, MD, June 23-25, 2015

OBSSR Capitol Hill Exhibition & Reception, Washington, DC, June 24, 2015

American Psychological Association Annual Convention, Toronto, Canada, August 6-9, 2015

Rural Sociological Society Annual Meeting, Madison, WI, August 6-9, 2015

American Statistical Association Joint Statistical Meetings, Seattle, WA, August 8-13, 2015

American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, August 22-25, 2015

A list of COSSA members’ annual meetings and other events can be found on the COSSA website. COSSA members who have an upcoming event they would like to see listed in the Events Calendar and on our website should send an email to

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House Passes FY16 NSF, Census, Justice Spending Bill

After two days of debate and consideration of dozens of amendments, the House passed the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill this evening on June 4 by a vote of 242 to 183. Twelve Democrats voted in favor of the bill with 10 Republicans voting against.

As previously reported, this annual spending bill–which provides funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Justice (DOJ) research programs, and the Census Bureau and other federal statistical agencies–includes very troubling provisions impacting social and behavioral science research (see COSSA’s analysis for full details).

There were no amendments offered, positive or negative, to the NSF section of the bill, leaving the section unchanged from the version that was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on May 20.

However, several amendments passed impacting the budget of the Census Bureau, including:

  • $100 million from Periodic Censuses and Programs to increase funding for justice assistance grants (Rep. David Reichert, R-WA)
  • $17.3 million from Periodic Censuses and Programs for sex trafficking victims services in DOJ (Rep. Ted Poe, R-TX)
  • $4 million from Current Surveys and Programs to increase DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs (Rep. Richard Nugent, R-FL)

In addition, Rep. Poe continued his assault on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) by offering an amendment to make the ACS voluntary; the amendment passed by voice vote, but not before CJS Subcommittee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA) keenly articulated the importance of a mandatory survey.

While no amendments were offered impacting NSF, several Members of Congress took to the House floor to object to problematic report language in the bill that would direct 70 percent of NSF research funding to engineering and physical, biological and computer science, thereby undercutting funding to the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate (as well as the Geosciences directorate) (video can be viewed here). Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) (video at 05:17:06) called these cuts to SBE “misguided” and highlighted several examples of social science research that has led to major breakthroughs impacting the health and prosperity of the nation. In addition, Rep. David Price (D-NC) (video at 10:35:39) asked CJS Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) for a commitment to work together to fix this language and preserve NSF’s discretion to decide what grants to fund, to which Culberson expressed his intent to work with the Congressman. House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) (video at 04:46:20) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) (video at 05:13:13), Ranking Member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, also expressed their objection to the NSF language and cuts to Census.

Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) (video at 05:21:35) took to the floor to defend the NSF language, acknowledging that he worked directly with CJS Subcommittee staff to incorporate it into the committee report. He reiterated his concerns about NSF’s responsibility to be accountable to taxpayers and fund grants that are in the “national interest.”

The next step in the FY 2016 funding of these agencies is Senate consideration of its version of the CJS appropriations bill, which could occur as early as next week with a possible markup in the Senate CJS Subcommittee.

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