Issue 07 (April 3)


COSSA Seeking Undergraduate Summer Interns

COSSA is accepting applications for its 2018 summer internship. The opportunity is open to undergraduate students who wish to learn about advocacy/lobbying, policy impacting social science, and/or non-profit organizations. Responsibilities include conducting research to assist COSSA staff with their lobbying activities and coverage of events, such as Congressional hearings, federal agency advisory committee meetings, community and coalition events, which may result in a written product, such as a newsletter article. More information is available in the internship description. Applications will be evaluated as they are received, so apply now!

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2020 Census to Ask About Citizenship; COSSA Releases Statement and Action Alert

On March 26, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross directed the Census Bureau to include a question about respondents’ citizenship in the 2020 Decennial Census. The decision was made in response to a request by the Department of Justice to add the question in order to support its enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, although it is unclear why current data is inadequate. Citizenship was last asked as part of the decennial census in 1950; since then it has been included on the census “long form,” which later became the American Community Survey (these differ from the decennial census in that they are sent to a sample of the U.S. population, not every household). In a memo outlining his decision, Ross stipulated that the question be asked last on the Census form. While the decision was reportedly made over the objections of the experts at the Census Bureau, the citizenship question was on the list of planned questions submitted to Congress on March 29.

The decision has raised concerns for those in the scientific community because the question was not part of the extensive research and testing the Census Bureau routinely conducts in the years leading up to a decennial census. The Bureau carefully evaluates all proposed changes to design and wording of the census to ensure that they do not affect the quality of the responses received. Asking about citizenship could alienate respondents in the immigrant community and potentially deter them from responding to the Census at all or answering inaccurately, resulting in an undercount of these populations and affecting the accuracy and integrity of the Census data. The Bureau is currently conducting the last major test of the 2020 Census operation, the 2018 End-to-End Test in Providence, RI, which is being administered without a citizenship question. Because the Bureau will not have been able to evaluate the impact of the question, we will not know how the question will affect responses until the 2020 Census is in the field. Given that the Census Bureau has a Constitutional obligation to count every member of the U.S. population, an increase in non-response would greatly increase the costs of the count, as more enumerators would need be sent to collect responses in person, at far greater expense than planned mail or internet outreach.

The decennial census is an irreplaceable source of data for researchers across the social sciences who use it to generate valuable findings about the U.S. population that can be used to inform evidence-based policies. In addition, information from the decennial census undergirds numerous other surveys and data sets at the Census Bureau and beyond, so a problem at the source would have far-reaching implications across the statistical system. COSSA strongly opposes the Department of Commerce’s decision and released a statement to that effect on March 27. In addition, COSSA issued an action alert to enable COSSA members to easily write to their Members of Congress and ask them to support legislation to remove the question. In addition, other COSSA members, including the American Statistical Association, Population Association of America, and the Social Science Research Council have released statements criticizing the decision.

At this stage, the only avenues to removing the question are legislation or a court ruling. Two bills (H.R. 5359 and S. 2580) have been introduced by Democrats in Congress that would bar the Census from asking about citizenship, but neither has bipartisan support, making passage unlikely. In addition, more than one law suit has been filed against the Administration, arguing that asking about citizenship is an attempt to depress the count of minority populations.

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Science Policy Conference Program Taking Shape; Hotel Block Extended to April 6

More sessions and speakers have been announced for the COSSA 2018 Science Policy Conference and Social Science Advocacy Day. The conference will feature a keynote address delivered by Sian Beilock, President of Barnard College, plenary panels on “Reestablishing Trust in Social Science & Data” and “Post Truth: Communicating Facts, Not Fiction” and topical breakout sessions on the theme “Why Social Science?” covering National Security, the Opioid Epidemic, Natural Disasters, and Criminal Justice. Check the preliminary agenda for the full lineup of presenters announced so far. Registration for the Conference is still open. Members and students are entitled to discounted registration—email for details. The conference hotel block deadline was extended until April 6, so this is your last chance to take advantage of our discounted rate. Use this link when booking or use the group code COSSAM to receive the block rate. Check our website for the latest on the Conference.

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COSSA to Present 2018 Distinguished Service Award to Rep. Dan Lipinski, NIH’s Bill Riley

COSSA has named U.S. Representative Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and Dr. William (Bill) Riley, Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as the recipients of its 2018 Distinguished Service Award. The COSSA Distinguished Service Award recognizes leaders who have gone above and beyond to promote, protect, and advance the social and behavioral science research enterprise. Awardees are chosen by the COSSA Board of Directors, which represents COSSA’s governing member associations. The 2018 Distinguished Service Award will be officially presented at a reception on April 30, 2018 as part of COSSA’s 2018 Science Policy Conference. Read the press release here.

Lipinski, who serves on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and as Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Research and holds a Ph.D. in political science, has been a strong advocate for scientific research at all levels and across all fields of study. He has worked productively with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to enact legislation that strengthens the U.S. scientific enterprise and has helped raise the profile of the social and behavioral sciences.

A 13-year veteran of NIH, Riley has worked at Institutes and Centers across the agency, including the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), before his appointment to lead the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research in 2015. Throughout his career, he has worked tirelessly to amplify the importance of social and behavioral science across the NIH and in biomedical research more generally. As OBSSR Director, Riley has cultivated strong relationships between the Office and NIH stakeholders through open, ongoing engagement with the social and behavioral science community.

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The American Statistical Association Answers “Why Social Science?”

why-social-scienceThis month’s Why Social Science? guest post comes from Ron Wasserstein, Executive Director of the American Statistical Association, who writes about how social scientists use federally collected data to provide the public with intelligence and insight to make smart decisions. Read it here and subscribe.

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Congress Approves Fiscal Year 2018 Funding; Cochran Retires

On March 23, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 into law, finalizing appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2018 nearly six months after the fiscal year began. The omnibus bill includes all 12 individual appropriations bills and will fund the federal government through September 30, 2018. This bill came after a bipartisan deal was reached to raise spending caps, which resulted in increases for many programs across the government – including those important to the social and behavioral sciences. The omnibus also served as a last hurrah for Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, who announced that he will retire effective April 1 after serving in the Senate for 40 years. Cochran’s successor will be Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, who has most recently served as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill.

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House Members Join Together to Support NIH, Title VI International Education in Dear Colleague Letters

As Congress begins deliberations on fiscal year (FY) 2019 spending, groups of Representatives have joined together to express their support for federal programs, including those important to the social and behavioral sciences. A bipartisan group of 82 representatives signed on to a “Dear Colleague letter” in support of the Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays and Title VI international education programs. The letter calls for at least $72.16 million for the two programs. Separately, a bipartisan group of 209 Representatives also joined together to express support, and request $38.4 billion, for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Office of Management and Budget Releases President’s Management Agenda

On March 20, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the President’s Management Agenda, which is a broad framework for bring additional efficiency to the federal government. Goals include accomplishing agency missions more effectively, better serving those receiving services from the federal government, and being better stewards of taxpayer dollars. To accomplish these goals, the Administration will first focus in information technology modernization across the government, data accountability and transparency, and modernizing the federal workforce. Progress on the President’s Management Agenda goals can be tracked online at  The President’s Management Agenda is expected to inform agency reorganization plans that will be released in the coming months.

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AERA & AAPSS Briefing Focuses on Inequality and Public Education

The American Academy of Political and Social Science (AAPSS) and the American Educational Research Association (AERA), both COSSA members organizations, hosted a Congressional briefing on March 22 entitled, In the Age of Inequality, Does Public Schooling Make a Difference? The event discussed the effects of public schooling since the “Coleman Report” of 1966, a groundbreaking and controversial study that found schools have little influence on inequality in America, and instead students’ growth is determined by their socioeconomic status and race. AAPSS and AERA welcomed four panelists who discussed their research on public schooling’s influence on the opportunities of underserved youth. AERA Executive Director Felice Levine introduced the event’s four panelists, many of whom were featured in the November 2017 volume of AAPSS’s scholarly periodical The ANNALS, a special issue focused on “The State of Unequal Educational Opportunity.”

The first panelist was Heather Hill, a researcher at the University of Michigan, who stated that providing data on school-readiness in communities helps provide a metric to measure whether public schools influence student growth. The second panelist, Stanford University researcher Sean Reardon, concluded that schools can influence student growth, but measuring that influence is complex. He presented a study that showed that while a national average of third graders in low-income communities have significantly lower test scores than wealthier students, some states such as Tennessee have successfully implemented strategies that have equalized opportunities across the board. This is evidence that students’ grades can be influenced by regional public school systems because other states, such as Florida, show a decrease in student grades from third to eighth grade.

Brown University researcher Susan Moffitt presented on the importance of early education programs and economic assistance for families. Schools have a more positive effect on students when partnering with programs such as Head Start, nurse-family partnerships, and income support such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The final panelist, Prudence L. Carter of the University of California, Berkeley, focused on discrimination at the individual school level as well as the national level. She stated there are unequal outcomes for African American students even in “so-called good schools.”  African American students have limited access to honors programs and are more likely to be suspended or expelled compared to their peers. Carter stated that it is important for us to recognize that this is a result of systemic racism, and societal and policy inequalities need to be radically improved to prevent further inequalities in schools.

This article was contributed by COSSA’s spring intern, Dakota Leonard of Arizona State University.

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