Issue 12 (June 13)


National Academies Highlights the Value of Social Science

At the request of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened an expert committee, chaired by Alan Leshner, CEO Emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to study the contributions of the social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences to the national interest. The committee’s report, The Value of the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences to National Priorities, published last week, is a ringing endorsement of the importance of these fields to addressing “nearly every major challenge the United States faces.” The report draws three conclusions: (1) SBE sciences “produce a better understanding of the human aspects of the natural world, contributing knowledge, methods, and tools that further the mission of the National Science Foundation;” (2) SBE sciences provide understanding, tools, and methods that help other agencies achieve their missions; (3) the SBE sciences have made contributions that “have been applicable to businesses and industry and that have enhanced the U.S. economy.” To support its findings, the report provides supporting examples detailing the contributions of SBE research to health, prosperity and welfare, national defense, progress in science, missions of other agencies, and industry and business.

The committee also issued four recommendations for NSF and the broader SBE community: (1) NSF should undertake a systematic and transparent strategic planning process related to SBE sciences; (2) NSF should “continue to support the development of tools, methods, and research teams” to advance SBE sciences, facilitate their interactions with other fields, and help NSF and other organizations more effectively address national needs; (3) NSF should support training “consistent with the ways science is evolving across all scientific fields;” and (4) NSF should work to better communicate the results and value of the SBE research it supports and to encourage the broader scientific community to increase its own efforts to better communicate the value of SBE research.

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The National Communication Association Answers “Why Social Science?”

why-social-scienceThis week’s Why Social Science? guest post comes from Paaige Turner, Executive Director of the National Communication Association, who writes about the role Communication research plays in helping shape our understanding of the world around us. Read it here and subscribe.

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COSSA Senate Testimony Calls for Funding for NIH, AHRQ, CDC, Education Programs

On June 2, COSSA submitted testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies for fiscal year (FY) 2018. The testimony calls for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Institute for Education Sciences (IES), and International Education and Foreign Language Programs (Title VI and Fulbright-Hays).

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House Subcommittee Discusses FY 2018 NSF Budget

On June 7, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) held a hearing on the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF), featuring NSF Director France Córdova. Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) opened the hearing by recognizing the important role NSF plays as the sole federal funder of basic research across all fields of science. Culberson also added that the subcommittee is going to work in a bi-partisan fashion to ensure that NSF is “appropriately funded” despite the tough budgetary environment and the appropriations process getting off to a slow start. As COSSA previously reported, the President’s budget request includes $6.7 billion for NSF, which would be a $819 million or 11.2 percent cut.

Both Republicans and Democrats on the Subcommittee expressed concerns about the impact the proposed cuts would have on different scientific disciplines and NSF-funded facilities like the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Ranking Member José Serrano (D-NY) recognized the significance of the proposed cut to the NSF, as it represents the first time a President has proposed decreasing funding for the agency in its 50-year history. Unlike appropriations deliberations in recently years, there was no discussion of funding the NSF directorates at specific levels or targeting individual fields for cuts.

Director Córdova emphasized the importance of the social and behavioral sciences in an exchange with Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA), who inquired about the impact of the requested budget cut on research in cybersecurity. Dr. Córdova explained that the cuts would have an impact on cybersecurity research including the import interdisciplinary work being done between the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate and the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate.

While the Subcommittee members seemed in agreement that they did not want to see cuts to federally-funded basic research, the next steps for the NSF budget are unclear. Chairman Culberson mentioned that the subcommittee has yet to receive its budget allocation, which will delay an already-shortened appropriations timeline for FY 2018.

An archived webcast of the hearing and Dr. Córdova’s written testimony are available here.

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NIH Suspends Recently-Announced Grant Support Index Policy, Launches “Next Generation Researchers Initiative”

On June 8, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins announced that based on feedback from the scientific community in response to the May 2 proposed policy change to use a Grant Support Index (GSI) as a means to “optimize stewardship of tax payers’ dollars,” NIH has decided to take “a more focused approach to increase the number of NIH-funded early-staged an mid-care investigators (ESI).” Instead of the GSI, Collins announced the agency will implement a “Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI).” The issue was discussed at the June 8 NIH Advisory Committee to Director (ACD) meeting following a presentation by NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak.

According to the NIH Director, NGRI will:

  • Make “substantial funds from NIH’s base budget” available to support “additional meritorious” ESI and mid-career investigators who are defined as individuals with less than ten years as a principal investigator and “are about to lose all NIH funding or are seeking a second award for highly meritorious research.” Beginning this year, total funding will be $210 million (the amount needed to fund these additional investigators in the first year) and gradually increase to approximately $1.1 billion per year, depending on available resources.
  • Track the impact of the 27 NIH institutes and centers funding decisions for early- and mid-career investigators “with fundable scores to ensure this new strategy is effectively implemented in all areas of research.”
  • Place greater emphasis on special awards with the aim of supporting early-career investigators “with applications that score in the top 25th percentile,” including such awards as: the NIH Common Fund New Innovator Awards, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ (NIGMS) Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA), the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases’ (NIAMS) Supplements to Advance Research (STAR) from Projects to Programs, and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) Sustaining Outstanding Achievement in Research (SOAR) award.
  • “Encourage multiple approaches to develop and test metrics that can be used to assess the impact of NIH grant support on scientific progress.” In the short term, according to Tabak, the agency needs “validated metrics for output (productivity)” and metrics for grant support that are based on commitment and not on dollars. A working group of the ACD will review analyses and will be discussed at future ACD meetings.

NIH launched a new web page and will continue to receive feedback via the Open Mike blog or via email to A recording of the discussion can be viewed via videocast on NIH’s website.

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Collins to Stay on at NIH; Two Other Leadership Positions Announced

On June 6, the President announced that National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins will stay on as NIH director. As previously reported, Collins was asked to remain in the position in January by the new administration. Collins continues to enjoy support of the Republican leadership of committees with jurisdiction over the NIH. He was officially appointed to the post despite a May 22 letter from 41 conservative House members urging the President to appoint someone whose views are more aligned the Administration’s “pro-life direction,” citing embryonic stem cell research and human cloning as examples. In addition, NIH recently announced the appointments of Norman E. Sharpless as the next director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Christine Hunter as Deputy Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR).

On June 12, Collins announced the appointment of Dr. Norman E.  Sharpless as the next NCI director. Dr. Sharpless is currently serving as the director of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) Lineberger (NCI-designated) Comprehensive Cancer Center and as the Wellcome Distinguished Professor in Cancer Research. Sharpless earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from UNC-CH and completed his medical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and a fellowship in hematology/oncology at Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care.

OBSSR Director William Riley also recently announced the appointment of Christine Hunter as Deputy Director. She will begin her tenure August 7. Hunter is currently the Director of Behavioral Research at the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and is a Captain in the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). At NIDDK, Dr. Hunter led the revision of the NIH Obesity Research Strategic Plan “and developed and led the NIDDK Centers for Diabetes Translation Research,” according to an announcement circulated to OBSSR staff.

Dr. Hunter serves on the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR), the Opportunity Network for Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OppNet), the Science of Behavior Change (SOBC), and the Behavior and Environment Subcommittee of the NIH Obesity Research Task Force. As a member of the NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Coordinating Committee, Dr. Hunter served on the NIH OBSSR Strategic Plan Working Group.

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Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services Seeks Members

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is seeking seven non-Federal members for the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services. The 22-member Council consists of 12 non-federal members who fall within six categories: dementia caregivers; health care providers; researchers with dementia-related expertise in basic, translational, clinical, or drug development science; voluntary health association representatives; representatives of state health departments; and dementia patient advocates, including an advocate currently living with the disease. Nominations are due June 16, 2017. For more information, see the announcement.

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NIH-Supported Dissemination and Implementation Research Training Institute Seeks Applications

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), led by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is supporting a training institute designed to provide participants with a “thorough grounding in conducting D&I [dissemination and implementation] research in health across all areas of health and health care.” The Training Institute for Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health (TIDIRH) is open to investigators at any career stage interested in conducting D&I research. The training will be conducted both online and a during two-day in-person training session in Bethesda, MD, from August 14 through December 1, 2017. Applications are due June 21, 2017.  For more information, see the program website.

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Coalition to Promote Research Launches Petition Drive: “Advancing Principles of Scientific Stewardship”

On June 12, the Coalition to Promote Research (CPR), which is co-led by COSSA and the American Psychological Association (a COSSA member), launched a petition drive, Advancing Principles of Scientific Stewardship. The effort is designed to make evident the support of the general public as well as the scientific community for America’s premier federal research enterprise, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The organizers hope to showcase the enormous unseen support for the peer/merit review process.

The CPR petition highlights the general public’s and scientific community’s recognition that “Effective policy planning and appropriate, stable funding levels are essential to producing outcomes that save lives and reduce health care costs; enhance the quality of life of our families and children; improve systems of health care delivery; and lay the scientific foundations for improvements in education, safety, governance, and commerce.” It urges “the U.S. Congress and Administration to act as responsible and effective stewards of the scientific infrastructure and to continue to uphold the quality of our nation’s research enterprise by embracing the fundamental values that have supported its development and maintained its quality.”

Specifically, the petition encourages Congress and the Executive Branch to support:

  1. Scientific merit review (also called “peer review”) to judge the quality and relevance of research proposals without Congressional interference.
  2. Federal science funding agencies’ efforts to assure the quality of federally supported research and its applicability to agencies’ missions and priorities.
  3. Adherence to and promotion of the highest standards of scientific integrity and transparency in developing and making scientific data available to the public.

CPR member-organizations represent hundreds of thousands of scientists, physicians, health care providers, and patients who support federal investments in basic and applied biomedical, behavioral, social, and population science research.

The coalition will be accepting signatures for the foreseeable future. COSSA/CPR encourage you to read and sign the petition and share it with your colleagues, family, and friends.

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AAPOR Report Assesses 2016 Election Polling Performance

After Donald Trump’s surprise win in the 2016 election, the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), a COSSA governing member, convened a committee to review the performance of pre-election polling (AAPOR has convened such committees after the past several elections). The committee, chaired by Courtney Kennedy of the Pew Research Center, recently released An Evaluation of 2016 Election Polls in the U.S., outlining its findings and recommendations.

According to the committee, “While the general public reaction [to the election result] was that ‘the polls failed,’ we found the reality to be more complex – a position held by a number of industry experts… Some polls, indeed, had large, problematic errors, but many polls did not. Critically, the reasons for the polling errors are no longer a mystery.” Overall, the committee found the national-level polls were “generally correct and accurate by historical standards,” but that many of the state-level polls were flawed. According to the report, underestimation of Trump’s support in state polls was due to late changing voter preferences, not sufficiently adjusting for overrepresentation of college graduates, and potentially, voters’ misrepresentation of their support for Trump.

The committee cautions against using the 2016 election as reason to discount the importance of polling and survey research: “Well-designed and rigorously executed surveys are still able to produce valuable, accurate information about the attitudes and experiences of the U.S. public.” To improve the outcomes of polling ahead of future presidential elections, the committee recommends finding ways to direct more resources toward critical state polls, which are often under-funded. The complete report is available on AAPOR’s website.

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CJRA and COSSA to Host “Ask a Criminologist” Panel on Technology and Policing

The Crime & Justice Research Alliance (CJRA) (a collaborative effort of the Academy of Criminal Justice Science and the American Society of Criminology, both COSSA members) and COSSA will be hosting the second in a series of “Ask a Criminologist” Congressional briefings on Wednesday, June 21. This interactive event will feature criminologist experts who will provide an overview of research on the latest technologies police are using across the country. Experts include CJRA Chair Dr. Nancy La Vigne of The Urban Institute, Dr. Cynthia Lum of George Mason University, Dr. Eric Piza of John Jay College, and Eddie Reyes of the Police Foundation. More information, and a link to RSVP, can be found here.

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Funding Opportunity Announcements

  • IES: Education Research Grants (FY 2018) (CFDA 84.305A)
  • IES: Partnerships and Collaborations Focused on Problems of Practice or Policy (FY 2018) (CFDA 84.305H)
  • IES: Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluation of Education Interventions (FY 2018) (CFDA 84.305L)
  • IES: Special Education Research Grants (FY 2018) (CFDA 84.324A)
  • IES: Research Training Programs in Special Education (FY 2018) (CFDA 84.324B)
  • IES: Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluation of Special Education Interventions (FY 2018) (CFDA 84.324L)
  • IES: Research Networks Focused on Critical Problems of Education Policy and Practice in Special Education (FY 2018) (CFDA 84.324N)

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Events Calendar

A list of COSSA members’ annual meetings and other events can be found on the COSSA events page. 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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