Issue 22 (November 15)


Congress Returns for Lame Duck Session, Begins Organizing

Congress returns to Washington this week for the first time since last week’s historic elections. Lawmakers are returning to a new reality that many did not see coming, with the election of Donald Trump as the next President and the Republicans maintaining a stronghold in both chambers of Congress.

Following the elections, Republicans maintain a narrowed majority in the House and Senate. The Senate margins sit at 51 Republicans to 48 Democrats, with a run-off race in Louisiana scheduled for December. In addition, and as expected, Republicans held onto control of the House, with 239 Republicans to 193 Democrats, though Democrats narrowed the margin by picking up 5 seats so far, with some still too close to call. Notable losses include Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who lost his seat to Democrat Tammy Duckworth; Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; and House appropriators Mike Honda (D-CA) and David Jolly (R-FL).

Three newly elected members of the House will be sworn in this week, rather than in January with the rest of their freshman class, because their seats have previously been vacated. This includes Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), who will fill the late Mark Takai’s seat, James Comer (R-KY), who will fill fellow Republican Ed Whitfield’s seat following his resignation in September, and Dwight Evans (D-PA), who will fill Chaka Fattah’s (D-PA) seat following his June resignation.

It will be some time before committee assignments for the 115th Congress will be made. Below is an early look at the committees of interest to the COSSA community and number of seats currently vacated following the elections.


At the top of the agenda for the next few weeks is what to do about the FY 2017 spending bills, which remain undone. The current continuing resolution (CR) expires on December 9. Unsurprisingly, lawmakers are split on the endgame strategy. Some Republicans are pushing to complete the appropriations bills before the end of the calendar year, thereby allowing the next Congress to start fresh, while others would like to punt them to 2017 so as to dodge any final negotiations with President Obama. Either way, Congress must take some form of action by December 9 to avoid a government shutdown.

Another task for the lame duck session is getting organized for next year. House and Senate Republicans and Democrats are holding leadership elections this week. While we expect Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to keep the Speaker’s gavel and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to remain as Minority Leader in the House, and Mitch McConnell to stay on as Majority Leader in the Senate, there could be some surprises as lawmakers battle for other positions.

Stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage of the 2016 elections for the latest developments and analysis of what this all means for the social science research community.

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COSSA Letter to Conferees Advocates Funding for NSF, NIJ, BJS, and Census

As Congress returns to complete the business of funding the government for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2017, COSSA is advocating for strong funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and Census Bureau. In a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS), COSSA highlights the important work of these agencies and asks that conferees support the “highest possible funding levels.” The full letter is available on the COSSA website. COSSA has weighed-in in support of other federal agency budgets through our many coalition efforts.

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President-Elect Trump Begins Transition; Many Questions Remain for Science

Following a surprising victory on Nov. 8, businessman Donald Trump’s campaign will now focus on transitioning to the White House. More details have emerged about Trump’s goals for his presidency through a transition website, goals for his first 100 days in office, and a job posting for administration appointees.  Notably, President-elect Trump’s plan for his first 100 days includes a hiring freeze on federal employees and “a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated.” Many uncertainties remain, including key administration appointments and more detailed policy proposals for the administration.

Before the election, President-elect Trump had not published any specific policy recommendations related to science, but included in his answer to the Scientific American questionnaire that scientific advances, including a viable space program, require long-term investment and stakeholder input. Other public statements, including about the National Institutes Health, have been less flattering. COSSA’s preliminary analysis of the Presidential candidates’ science and technology platforms can be found here.

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Cancer Moonshot Task Force Report Released

On October 17, the Cancer Moonshot Task Force released a report laying out its implementation plans for accelerating progress in cancer research and care. The plan includes actions launched under the Cancer Moonshot this year as well as  longer-term strategies for the initiative. Established by President Barack Obama, the Task Force consists of 20 federal departments, agencies, and White House offices, with leadership provided by Vice President Joe Biden. The Task Force’s efforts are not intended to supplant existing cancer programs, initiatives, and polices, but to coordinate these efforts in an attempt to quicken the progress associated with them. The report contains five strategic goals: (1) catalyze new scientific breakthroughs, (2) unleash the power of data by “maximizing access to and usability of these data to enhance, improve, and inform,” (3) increase the pace of new therapies, (4) strengthen efforts surrounding prevention and diagnosis, and (5) improve patient access and care. The Task Force notes that the plan is designed to serve as a blueprint for future Administrations (the report was released before last week’s elections). It also includes new commitments made by both the public and private sectors.

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EPA Seeks Research on “Behavioral Drivers” of Significant Carbon Reduction

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program is soliciting applications for research projects on “Anticipating the Environmental Impacts and Behavioral Drivers of Deep Decarbonization.” The term “Deep Decarbonization” refers to the changes necessary to significantly reduce carbon emissions and meet climate policy goals. EPA is interested in proposals that address at least one of the following questions:

  1. “How might the deep decarbonization of the U.S. economy by 2050 change the geographic, socioeconomic, and demographic distribution of public health and ecosystem risks associated with energy production and consumption?”
  2. “What factors drive decisions at the individual, firm, and community levels regarding how much and what types of energy are used in different technological and socioeconomic contexts? How can these insights be applied to the design of efficient markets and effective policies supporting clean technology and efficiency measures?”
  3. “What predictive tools are needed to anticipate the risks and responses to deep decarbonization?”

The agency is accepting applications through a general funding announcement (EPA-G2017-STAR-B1), as well as one aimed at early-career investigators (EPA-G2017-STAR-B2). Proposals are due by February 10, 2017. More information and detailed instructions on applying is available on the EPA website.

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IRS Statistical Agency Accepting Research Proposals

The Statistics of Income program (SOI) within the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is accepting proposals for its Joint Statistical Research Program. The program, which is generally offered every two years, matches researchers outside the federal government with IRS researchers to work on projects that will deepen our understanding of taxpayer behavior and of how tax policies affect individuals, businesses, and the economy. The IRS hopes that such projects will also lead to the development of new datasets to enhance future tax research.

SOI is particularly interested in proposals addressing the following topics: “Tax administration in a global economy; taxpayer needs and behavior, particularly the roles of information, complexity, salience, engagement, and compliance costs; filing, payment, and reporting compliance measures, behaviors, and drivers; benefit participation measures, behaviors, and drivers, particularly related to the Affordable Care Act; taxpayer response to policy changes, particularly taxpayer responses to changes in incentives; the role of complex business structures in tax planning; and application of new research methods for tax administration, particularly data science, behavioral insights, or other interdisciplinary approaches.”

The 2016 call for proposals is available here. Proposals will be accepted through December 31, 2016.

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National Library of Medicine Seeks Input into Strategic Plan

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is seeking the scientific and stakeholder community’s input into the goals and priorities for NLM’s next ten-year strategic plan. Specifically, NLM is seeking comments around four themes: (1) data science, open science, and biomedical informatics; (2) biomedical discovery and translational science; (3) public health (clinical systems, public health systems and services, and personal health); and (4) collections to support discovery and health in the 21st century. For more information and/or to comment, see the Request for Information (NOT-LM-17-002). Comments are due January 9, 2017.

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NIGMS Analyzes RFI Response on Modernizing Biomedical Graduate Education

On November 2, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shared its analysis of the input it received from the scientific community in response to a June 2016 request for information (RFI) (NOT-GM-16-109) on how to “catalyze the modernization of biomedical graduate education through NIGMS’s institutional predoctoral training program.” According to NIGMS, the comments received addressed 28 themes and fell into five categories: institutional and training-related issues, skills development, systemic issues within the research enterprise, careers, and administrative and review issues. The feedback around the issue of diversity and the role of institutional climate, one of the themes, included concern regarding the lack of diversity and the fact that it “…continues to be an alarming problem in biomedical research. Given our changing demographics, this is no longer a ‘minority problem,’ but rather a national emergency.” Another theme cited was the “strong support for interdisciplinary training in Ph.D. programs.” Additional details about the analysis can be found in the report.

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NIH Seeks Input on Data Management, Sharing, and Citation

The National Institute of Health (NIH) is seeking comments on data management and sharing strategies and priorities to assist it in: (1) establishing policy in managing and making publicly available digital scientific data generated by NIH-supported research, and (2) setting standards for citing shared data and software. Topics of interest cited in the Request for Information, Strategies for NIH Data Management, Sharing, and Citation (NOT-OD-17-015), include: “the highest-priority types of data to be shared and value in sharing such data; the length of time the data should be made available for secondary research purposes, the appropriate means of maintaining and sustaining such data, and the long-term resource implications; and barriers (and burdens or costs to data stewardship and sharing, and mechanisms to overcome these barriers.” Comments are due December 29, 2016.

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Lawmakers and Advocates Urge Congress to Complete its Work on Behalf of NIH

On November 2, the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, including COSSA, a member of its Steering Committee, sent a letter to House and Senate leadership thanking lawmakers for their “efforts to ensure that a robust, sustained investment in medical research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a high priority.” A coalition of more than 200 patient and voluntary health groups, medical and scientific societies, academic and research organizations, and industry committed to enhancing the federal investment in biomedical, behavioral, social, and population-based research supported by NIH, the coalition urged Congress to provide at least $34.1 billion for the agency in the final FY 2017 appropriations legislation and “to pass medical innovation legislation that that includes a multi-year Innovation Fund” providing targeted investments for specific multi-year NIH initiatives. The letter further underscored the urgency of completing these tasks by the end of 2016 to avoid “harmful delays” and to allow for the “maximum efficiency in research planning.”

Subsequently, on November 10, Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), David McKinley (R-WV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Peter King (R-NY) coordinated a letter signed by 164 House Members to the House Appropriations Committee urging an appropriation for the NIH of “no less than $34 billion in any forthcoming appropriations legislation.” The letter further states, “If we are serious about breaking new ground in our understanding of complex and life-threatening conditions, then it is absolutely essential we increase funding for NIH.”

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Funding Opportunity Announcements

NIH opportunities:

  • NIH/CDC: Additional Awardees Eligible for PA-16-288 “Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (Admin Supp)” (NOT-OD-17-012)
  • NIH: Additional Awardees Eligible for PA-16-289 “Research Supplements to Promote Re-Entry into Biomedical and Behavioral Research Careers (Admin Supp)” (NOT-OD-17-013)
  • NIH: Addressing Health Disparities through Effective Interventions Among Immigrant Populations (R01) (PA-17-043), (R21) (PA-17-044) [NCI, NIAAA, NIDCR, NIDA, NIEHS]
  • NIH: Addressing the Etiology of Health Disparities and Health Advantages Among Immigrant Populations (R01) (PA-17-041), (R21) (PA-17-042) [NCI, NIAAA, NIDCR, NIDA, NIEHS]
  • NIH: NIH Blueprint Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience (D-SPAN) Award (F99/K00) (RFA-NS-17-009) [NINDS, NCCIH, NEI, NIA, NIAAA, NIBIB, NICHD, NIDA, NIDCR, NIEHS, NIMH, NINR, OBSSR]
  • NIA: NIA Research Centers Coordinating Network (U24) (RFA-AG-18-001)
  • NIA: Research Career Enhancement Award to Advance Therapy Development for Alzheimer’s (K18) (PAR-17-052)
  • NIGMS: Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) (R25) ((PAR-17-051)
  • NIGMS: Research Education: Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Program (R25) (PAR-17-040)

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Events Calendar

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