Issue 08 (April 17)


Psychologist Kristina R. Olson Receives Alan T. Waterman Award

On April 12, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that the 2018 Alan T. Waterman Award, the nation’s highest honor for early career scientists and engineers, would go to social and developmental psychologist Kristina R. Olson of the University of Washington. Olson is the first social scientist to receive the award since 2005 and is recognized for her “innovative contributions to understanding children’s attitudes toward and identification with social groups, early prosocial behavior, the development of notions of fairness, morality, inequality and the emergence of social biases.” More information can be found here. Olson and other awardees will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington on May 2.

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Less Than Two Weeks Until COSSA’s Science Policy Conference and Advocacy Day

There are less than two weeks left until the COSSA 2018 Science Policy Conference and Social Science Advocacy Day on April 30 and May 1. Register today to ensure you don’t miss the keynote address delivered by Barnard College President Sian Beilock, plenary panels on communicating and reestablishing trust in social science, and breakout sessions on using social and behavioral science research to address timely policy issues. Click here to see the full lineup of sessions and speakers and check the COSSA website for the most up-to-date information on the conference. Remember: COSSA members and students are eligible for discounts on registration. Email for details.

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Jerry Moran Tapped to Lead Senate CJS Subcommittee

This week, following the retirement of Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS), long-time appropriator Richard Shelby (R-AL) was approved by the Senate Republican Caucus to take the helm of the powerful committee. Shelby’s promotion left a vacancy in the chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS), the subcommittee responsible for allocating money to the Department of Commerce, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Department of Justice, and federal science agencies, including the National Science Foundation. Shelby selected Jerry Moran (R-KS) to lead the subcommittee. Moran, a lawyer and longtime state politician before his election to the Senate 2010, has most recently lead the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) will continue to serve as the Ranking Member of the CJS Subcommittee.

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House Subcommittee Discusses 2019 NIH Budget

On April 11, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) heard testimony from leadership of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the fiscal year (FY) 2019 NIH budget request. NIH Director Francis Collins, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Director Diana Bianchi, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, National Cancer Institute Director Norman Sharpless, and National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow all testified at the hearing. NIH was lauded for its accomplishments by members of both parties, further solidifying its position as a bi-partisan priority. Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-OK), Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and other members of the subcommittee expressed concern with the $2 billion cut recommended in the President’s FY 2019 budget request, in stark contrast to the $3 billion increase NIH received in the omnibus FY 2018 spending bill. Committee members also discussed NIH activities related to the opioid epidemic, the flu vaccine, medical and recreational marijuana, and cancer detection. A recording of the hearing and written statements from Collins and Cole can be found on the House Appropriations Committee’s website. COSSA’s coverage of FY 2019 funding is available here.

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NIH Launches HEAL Initiative to Address the Opioid Epidemic

On April 4, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a new effort to accelerate progress toward addressing the opioid addiction crisis. The Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative will use the increase in NIH funding provided by the FY 2018 omnibus bill to nearly double funding for research on opioid misuse/addiction and pain compared to FY 2016 ($1.1 billion compared to $600 million). The initiative will fund research in two broad areas: (1) Prevent addiction through enhanced pain management, and (2) Improve treatments for opioid misuse disorder and addiction. Within the preventing addiction portfolio, NIH proposes to launch a longitudinal study to follow patients at risk for chronic pain and to fund research on understanding “the genetic and social factors that put patients at risk for opioid misuse and addiction.” As part of its improving addiction treatment efforts, the Institute also plans to “assess the additive role of social and behavioral interventions” to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs. More information about the initiative is posted on the NIH website.

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NIH Takes Next Steps in Agency Reorganization Plans

As part of the Trump Administration’s government reform agenda, including its comprehensive plan for reorganizing the executive branch and reducing the federal civilian workforce, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has created an initiative called ReImagine HHS. As part of this initiative, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched Optimize NIH in December 2017 to improve organizational effectiveness and performance. NIH is working to equilibrate workload distribution across scientific review and grants and program management functions and anticipates that the Optimize NIH effort will be fully implemented over the next two to three years. Research functions are not expected to be among the first areas addressed as part of the activity. Rather, NIH will be looking at ways to streamline communications, ethics, and Freedom of Information Act requests across the agency.

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PAA Congressional Briefing Explores Factors Affecting Life Expectancy

On April 9, the Population Association of America (PAA), a COSSA governing member, hosted a Congressional briefing entitled Grave Consequences: Why Some Americans Are No Longer Living Longer on the decline of average life expectancy among some groups in the United States. COSSA was a co-sponsor of the event.

Andrew Fenelon, researcher at the University of Maryland, spoke about the regional divergence in adult mortality. The Central South has a higher mortality rate than the rest of the country and has gotten worse over time, while the East Coast has shown significant improvements. Shannon Mannat, researcher at Syracuse University, presented on the significant increase in “deaths of despair,” which are deaths caused by drug overdose or suicide. However, she emphasized that we must focus on underlying factors that lead to opioid abuse, including economic insecurity and isolation from family and communities. The final panelist was John Haaga, Director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), who presented NIA research initiatives related to life expectancy, including behavioral and social research projects.

All the panelists acknowledged that improving Americans’ health must be a collaborative effort that includes reducing economic insecurity, fighting the opioid epidemic, improving community connectedness, and increased social science research. Andrew Fenelon stated, “Any policy, even if not directly related to health, is going to have health implications.”

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

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