Issue 19 (October 20)


Budget Talks Progressing Slowly Amid GOP Leadership Vacuum

Only 10 Congressional working days remain between now and the date the U.S. Treasury Department estimates the U.S. will have exhausted its “extraordinary measures” and default on its debt. Originally estimated for November 5, Treasury now says that the U.S. will reach the so-called debt limit by November 3. These developments coupled with the recent surprise withdrawal of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as candidate for House Speaker further complicate and likely delay budget negotiations that many hoped would be well underway at this point. Outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) may be forced to delay his retirement, originally scheduled for the end of October, until the House GOP can agree on a new candidate and hold leadership elections. Still pending amid this uncertainty are all 12 annual appropriations bills, which are currently funded by a continuing resolution (CR) until December 11; fiscal year (FY) 2016 officially began on October 1. Given the current situation, it is difficult to see how Congress will complete its work on the FY 2016 appropriations bills before the end of the year.

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NIH/AHRQ Announce Policy Changes for Grant Applications

On October 13, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) issued a notice (NOT-OD-16-004) outlining policy changes for grant applications, forms, and instructions beginning in 2016. According to the notice, the policy will affect the following areas: rigor and transparency in research, inclusion reporting, research training, data safety monitoring, and biosketch clarification, among others. The changes will occur in two phases. For more information about the changes see the notice.

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NSF Seeks Candidates for Division Director of Social and Economic Sciences

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting applications for the position of Division Director for the Social and Economic Sciences (SES) Division within the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE). The Division Director “provides leadership and direction for the support of research and education activities that develop and advance scientific knowledge focusing on political, economic, and social systems and how individuals and organizations function within them.” More information on the position can be found in the Dear Colleague Letter from SBE. Applications may be submitted through USAJOBS.

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Census Bureau Marks World Statistics Day

The United Nations has designated October 20 World Statistics Day. To commemorate the day, the Census Bureau has released a new infographic to highlight the many ways Census data helps fulfill the 2015 Statistics Day theme, “Better Data. Better Lives.”

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Academies Report Calls for Better Integration of Social Science into the USGCRP

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has released a new report, Enhancing Participation in the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). The report offers recommendations on broadening participation of federal agencies in the USGCRP by identifying new partnership and enhancing existing ones. As part of its recommendations on better meeting the USGCRP’s goal of advancing science related to global change, the report reiterates a call from the 2012 Academies review of the USGCRP’s strategic plan that the program “’better integrate the social and ecological sciences’ and…move toward ‘an integrated observational system that connects observations of the physical environment with a wide variety of social and ecological observations.’” The new report notes that “achieving this expansion presents a grand challenge, especially considering budget constraints and the fragmented structure of federal research,” but suggests a way forward: “For challenges like better integration of social and ecological sciences, one set of promising opportunities for advancing science under the constraints mentioned lies in more fully engaging agencies that already collect data relevant to the USGCRP mission.”

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Funding Opportunity Announcements

  • NIH: Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for the Blueprint for Neuroscience Research: Training in Computational Neuroscience, From Biology to Model and Back Again (T90/R90) (NOT-DA-15-081)
  • NINR: Personalized Strategies to Manage Symptoms of Chronic Illness (R15) (PA-16-006), (R01) (PA-16-007), (R21) (PA-16-008)

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Events Calendar

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 Science Committee Advances “National Interest” Bill and Dyslexia Legislation

On October 8, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee advanced two bills that would impact the National Science Foundation (NSF): the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (H.R. 3293) and the Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia (READ) Act (H.R. 3033). Read on for details.

The Scientific Research in the National Interest Act, sponsored by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), was derived from Sec. 106 of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806), which passed the House in May despite strong and vocal opposition from the broad scientific research community.  H.R. 3293 seeks to set a definition for federally-funded research conducted in the “national interest.” As Chairman Smith noted during the mark up, the bill is intended to ensure that NSF is funding “only high priority research.”  He then included for the record a list of NSF grants that, despite making it through NSF’s highly regarded merit review process, the Chairman argued were not worth taxpayer support.

The bill passed by voice vote, but not before a number of Committee Democrats expressed their concern and opposition.  Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) asserted that the bill continues the majority’s “political review” of research projects at NSF and that the Chairman is using “his own subjective definition” of national interest.  She added that the bill sends a message to the scientific community: “don’t take risks.” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) also spoke in opposition to the bill, noting that “we [Members of Congress] are not the gold standard” when it comes to review of scientific research; that should be left to the NSF merit review process.  Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), the only scientist on the committee, added that the bill assumes that NSF’s merit review process is broken, which it is not.  COSSA issued a statement on the bill in July.

The Committee also passed the READ Act, which would require NSF to spend $5 million annually on the science of dyslexia using already appropriated funds.  An amendment was offered by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) to authorize $5 million in new funding as opposed to requiring funding from existing amounts, but the amendment failed by voice vote.

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