Issue 20 (October 17)


COSSA, SAGE Host Why Social Science? Congressional Briefing

COSSA and SAGE Publishing hosted a Congressional briefing on Wednesday, October 4 on Social Science Solutions for Health, Public Safety, Computing, and Other National Priorities. The event featured authors of past Why Social Science? blog posts, including Representative Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Peter Harsha of the Computing Research Association, Nancy La Vigne of The Urban Institute, and William Riley of the National Institutes of Health. Panelists discussed the importance of social science applications to preventing cyberattacks, how social science can help identify the causes of health disparities, and how behavioral reinforcement or “nudges” can be incorporated into federal policy. A complete recording of the event is available on COSSA’s website.

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COSSA Praises Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking Report

On October 11, COSSA issued a statement on the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking’s final report, released in September (see COSSA’s summary of the report’s recommendations). The statement reads:

“COSSA applauds the work of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking and commends its open, thorough process in producing its final report, The Promise of Evidence-Based Policymaking. The report represents the beginning of what we hope will be an ongoing, nonpartisan discussion on how the federal government can incentivize decision-making based on sound science while ensuring the careful stewardship of confidential information. The Commission’s recommendations demonstrate that expanding the use of evidence and data collection for policymaking purposes is not incompatible with enhancing privacy protections and transparency.

“COSSA thanks the Commissioners and their staff for their hard work, as well as Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray both for their foresight in authoring the Commission’s establishing legislation and their ongoing commitment to removing barriers to generating and using evidence to build strong public policy. While the recommendations in the report are an important start, many details on how to implement the vision set forth by the Commission remain to be determined. COSSA looks forward to working with its partners in Congress and at federal agencies on legislation and policy changes to ensure that the work of the Commission is brought to fruition.”

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SAGE Answers “Why Social Science?”

why-social-scienceThis week’s Why Social Science guest post comes from Sara Miller McCune, Founder and Executive Chair of SAGE Publishing, who writes about how her personal and professional experiences have been shaped by research in the social sciences. Read it here and subscribe.

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Senate Continues Working as To-Do List and Uncertainty Grows

The Senate hopes to pass a budget resolution for fiscal year (FY) 2018 this week while Congress’ to-do list and uncertainty surrounding the FY 2018 spending bills continues to grow. With only 37 working days for the Senate and 28 working days for the House left in the year, Congress hopes to pass a budget resolution, overhaul the tax code, create a plan to fund the government after December 8, and strike a deal to raise the debt ceiling. The House narrowly passed a budget resolution in early October that proposed major cuts to entitlement programs and non-defense discretionary programs, which includes the federal basic science agencies.

Providing more uncertainty for the Senate is the absence of Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) this week as he recovers in Mississippi from a medical issue. Cochran is the chair of the Appropriations Committee and a reliable vote for the Senate’s narrow Republican majority.

Keep up on the latest funding developments on the COSSA website.

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HHS May Delay Common Rule Implementation

On October 7, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs issued a notice that it is reviewing a rule that would delay the implementation date for most of the changes to the Common Rule, the set of regulations governing research involving human participants, by one year, pushing the effective date for the changes from January 2018 to January 2019 (see COSSA’s analysis of the changes, which were announced in January of this year). The delay would still allow “the use of three burden-reducing provisions during the delay year,” but there is little clarity on what those provisions are or when more details will be made available.

One hint may be found in a letter sent by four higher education associations in June that asked for a year-long delay in the compliance date for most of the changes to the regulations, while allowing burden-reducing provisions to move forward. The letter identified those provisions as “certain exclusions and exemptions, elimination of the continuing review requirement for certain types or stages of research and elimination of IRB [internal review board] review of grant applications.” If the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concurs with the recommendations in the letter, the provisions allowed to go into effect as originally scheduled may well include several of the changes that aim to make research involving human participants less burdensome for low-risk social and behavioral research.

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NIH Provides Guidance on New Human Subjects, Clinical Trials Form

As previously reported, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been working for the last few years to enhance its stewardship of and increase transparency over the clinical trials it funds. COSSA described the planned changes and their impact on the social science research community in a Hot Topic piece earlier this month. All social and behavioral science researchers who have received NIH funding in the past, or who are looking to apply in the future, are strongly encouraged to review this information as your research may now fall under NIH’s revised definition of a “clinical trial.”

NIH released a blog post and short video on October 11 that provides specific guidance on how to complete the new PHS Human Subjects and Clinical Trial Information form, which will now be required for all grant applications submitted on or after the January 25, 2018 due dates. All researchers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the new form.

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National Academies Releases Interactive Guide on Opioid Epidemic

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has produced an interactive guide to research on the opioid epidemic that highlights the findings of its recent report, Confronting Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic. The guide breaks down trends in prescription opioid use and misuse, overdose deaths from prescription and illicit opioids, heroin use, and heroin addiction and overdose deaths. It also outlines the report’s recommendations related to strategies for addressing the opioid epidemic, the illicit market, opioid approval and monitoring by the Food and Drug Administration, and research needs.

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COSSA Welcomes the University of Pittsburgh

COSSA is pleased to welcome the University of Pittsburgh as its newest university member. The University of Pittsburgh ranks 25th in the nation in federal funding of R&D in the social and behavioral sciences and is one of largest recipients of federally sponsored R&D overall. COSSA’s full membership list is available here. Information on how to join can be found on the COSSA website.

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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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