Issue 17 (September 5)


The American Educational Research Association Answers “Why Social Science?”

Twhy-social-sciencehis week’s Why Social Science? guest post comes from Juliane Baron of the American Educational Research Association, who writes about how education research has challenged our assumptions about how we learn and helped us improve the way we teach students. Read it here and subscribe.

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Pressure’s on as Congress Returns to Packed Agenda

Congress returns this week from its month-long August recess with just 12 working days left until fiscal year (FY) 2017 is a wrap. While September is a typically busy stretch as policymakers try to finish work on the annual appropriations bills and tie up other end-of-the-fiscal-year loose ends, the next few weeks promise to be even more challenging than recent years.

First on deck is an $8 billion emergency relief package in response to Hurricane Harvey. In addition, Congress will need to raise the federal debt ceiling in the next couple of weeks as well as take action to avoid a government shutdown before October 1. Prior to leaving for recess, Congress started making progress on the annual appropriations bills; work will continue over the next few weeks (see COSSA’s coverage here). In fact, the Senate Appropriations Committee will consider the FY 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies bill later this week.

While a likely final outcome is a multi-bill omnibus, such a package will not make it to the President’s desk by the end of the month. Congressional leaders are now talking about a three month continuing resolution (CR) to give lawmakers until the end of the calendar year to complete work on the spending legislation.

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NIH Announces New Next Generation Researchers Policy

On August 31, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a new policy aimed at increasing the number of early career investigators competing successfully for NIH grants. The Policy Supporting the Next Generation Researchers Initiative implements Section 2021 of the 21st Century Cures Act, enacted in late 2016, which calls for the agency to prioritize investment in the next generation of biomedical researchers.

The Next Generation Researchers Policy sets two new definitions of early career investigators: Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) and Early Established Investigators (EEIs). Early Stage Investigators are defined as a “program director/principal investigator who has completed their terminal research degree or end of post-graduate clinical training, whichever date is later, within the past 10 years and who has not previously competed successfully… for a substantial NIH independent research award.” An Early Established Investigator is a “program director/principal investigator who is within 10 years of receiving their first substantial, independent competing NIH R01-equivelent research award as an ESI.” Funding will be prioritized for an EEI if “(1) The EEI lost or is at risk for losing all NIH research support if not funded by competing awards this year, or (2) The EEI is supported by only one active award.”

The new policy will take effect this year (fiscal year 2017), with a goal of funding approximately 200 more ESI and EEI researchers (each) than were supported in FY 2016. Individual institute and center (IC) directors are tasked with determining how best to re-prioritize funding to enable these investments this year. A working group of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), which advises the NIH Director, has been established to monitor the implementation of the new policy.

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NIH Requests Information on ECHO-wide Cohort Data Collection Protocol

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is seeking input into the development of the cohort data collection protocol for the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program. ECHO was formed late last year to “investigate how exposure to a range of environmental factors in early development—from conception through early childhood–influences the health of children and adolescents.” ECHO represents the follow-on activity to the now-discontinued National Children’s Study.

The Request for Information seeks comments on a number of aspects of the ECHO-wide cohort, which will entail data collection from 84 existing cohorts. Input is sought on the data elements, types of biospecimens, and innovative data collection methodology associated with the cohort.

The deadline for comments has been extended to September 13.

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NIJ Releases New Policing Research Strategic Plan

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research and evaluation arm of the Department of Justice, has released a five-year strategic plan for policing research. Priorities include promoting and supporting research to optimize workforce development for officers and civilian personnel, promoting and supporting research on policing practices, and promoting and supporting research on the relationship between policing and communities. More information can be found here.

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HHS Seeks Nominations for New Pain Management Task Force

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is soliciting nominations for members of their new Pain Management Task Force. The Task Force was announced on August 25 by HHS Secretary Tom Price and is charged with developing best practices for prescribing pain medication and managing pain. The Task Force will be a joint effort with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and is seeking membership from diverse disciplines and views, including experts and patients in pain management, addiction, mental health, minority health, and more. Nominations must be received by September 27, 2017. More information can be found in the announcement in the Federal Register.

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NSF Seeking Candidates for Director of Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking candidates for the Director of the Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) within the Directorate of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE). The BCS Director is responsible for providing leadership and direction to the Division and implementing overall strategic planning. The BCS Division provides funding for research that helps advance scientific knowledge about the brain, human cognition, language, social behavior, and culture. Applications must be submitted by September 29, 2017. The position requirements can be found on USAJobs.

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AHRQ Releases 2016 Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released the 2016 edition of its Congressionally-mandated National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report (QDR). This year marks the 14th annual release of the report, which compiles over 250 individual measurements to present a comprehensive overview of the equity and quality of our health care system. The report is available on the AHRQ website.

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National Academies Launches Climate Communication Initiative, Seeks Nominations for Advisory Committee

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has announced the establishment of a new Climate Communication Initiative. The Academies is seeking nominations for members of the Initiative’s Advisory Committee which will guide the strategic direction for the initiative and plan its activities. The Academies are looking for individuals with expertise in “climate science, climate impacts and economics, potential response options, science communication, social media engagement, science education, and experience with other issues considered to be contentious in public discourse.” Nominations must be submitted by September 15, 2017. More information is available on the Initiative’s website.

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National Academies Requests Input on Two Higher Education and Workforce Studies

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Board on Higher Education and Workforce is requesting input for its consensus studies on Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century and the Next Generation Researchers Initiative. The Committee on Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century Workforce is inviting comments and reactions on previously received input on competencies and core educational elements for Masters and PhD programs. The opportunity to provide input is open until September 22, 2017. The Committee on the Next Generation Researchers Initiative is requesting input on the barriers that members of the next generation of biomedical and behavioral researchers may face as they develop their independent research careers. The opportunity to provide input to the Committee on the Next Generation Researchers Initiative is open until October 1, 2017.

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Decadal Survey of Social Science Applications to National Security Releases Workshop Dates and Topics

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences is sponsoring a decadal survey of social and behavioral sciences for applications to national security. The committee conducting the decadal survey will hold six workshops for the purposes of bringing together scholars, members of the intelligence community, members of the federal government, and other stakeholders to examine the state of research and future applications in particular areas. On October 11, 2017, the committee will host separate workshops on culture, language, and behavior; political and strategic reasoning; and network thinking. On January 24, 2018, the committee will host separate workshops on sensory, cognitive, and decision sciences; workforce development; and narratives. Each of these workshops will be held in Washington, DC. More information can be found here and staff can be contacted at

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Academies to Host Third Science of Science Communication Colloquium

The National Academy of Sciences will host its third Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication on November 16 and 17. Evolving from past colloquia, this Colloquium will focus on the consensus study report, Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda, as a framework for advancing both research and practice in science communication. The Colloquium will explore ways to build capacity for and foster the use of evidence-based strategies for engaging the public with science and ensuring its appropriate use. More information on the event, including an agenda, is available here. The event will also be available by webcast.

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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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White House Outlines FY 2019 R&D Budget Priorities, Emphasizes Role of Industry

On August 17, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney, with Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant Secretary to the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issued a joint memorandum to federal agency and department heads on “FY 2019 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities.” The R&D memo, along with an earlier memo released in July that outlines more general budget reforms, keeps with the practices of past administrations to lay out key White House priorities as agencies begin working on their budget submissions for the next fiscal year. Of course, the priorities within the memos can differ dramatically depending on the Administration, which is the case with this year’s guidance.

The FY 2019 R&D memo acknowledges the important role of science and technology to America’s global leadership, and particularly to issues of “national security, economic growth, and job creation.” However, there is some subtle, yet important language signaling possible shifts in this Administration’s priorities for science funding. For example, the memo states, “In spurring future advances, Federal funding of research and development programs and research infrastructure can play a crucial supporting role [emphasis added].” While it directs federal agencies to “continue, and expand where necessary, efforts to focus on basic research,” it directs agencies to reduce funding overlaps with private industry in later-stage research. It further states that “Working in tandem, the Government and the private sector can promote the nation’s economic growth through innovation, and create new products and services for the American people.”

The memo also outlines a number of priorities related to funding practices and accountability, including ensuring that “proposed programs are based on sound science, do not duplicate existing R&D efforts, and have the potential to contribute to the public good.” It further states that federal agencies should identify existing programs “that could progress more efficiently through private sector R&D, and consider their modification or elimination where Federal involvement is no longer needed or appropriate.”

Other key science priorities for the Trump Administration in FY 2019 include research “that can support the military of the future,” the development of “technologies necessary to prevent terrorist attacks, mitigate the effects of both natural and adversarial threats and hazards, and secure American borders,” and development of a domestic energy portfolio that includes “fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy sources.” As for biomedical (NIH) research, the memo calls for priority to be placed on programs “that encourage innovation to prevent, treat, and defeat diseases, and maintain America’s standing as a world leader in medicine.” Further, agencies should prioritize research addressing aging populations, drug addiction, and other public health challenges.

Additional details can be found in the memorandum.

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