Issue 12 (June 12)


NIH Releases Data Science Strategic Plan

On June 4, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released its first strategic plan for data science. The strategic plan will serve as a roadmap for modernizing the NIH-supported biomedical data science ecosystem and provide leadership within the broader biomedical research data community. NIH will begin implementing the plan over the next year and focus on usability of NIH-funded biomedical data sets and resources, integration of existing data management tools and development of new ones, and the growing costs of data management. NIH will seek community input during the implementation phase and plans to hire a Chief Data Strategist to help advance data science across the intramural and extramural research communities. Read more here.

Congress Moves Forward on FY 2019 Spending

With a little less than four months remaining in fiscal year (FY) 2018, Congress is behind schedule but well underway in their work to consider the spending bills for FY 2019. The House Appropriations Committee has approved seven of the twelve annual appropriations bills, including two important to social and behavioral science research. On June 8, the full House of Representatives approved a three-bill package of historically uncontroversial bills, kick-starting what is expected to be a busy summer of votes.

On the other side of the Capitol, Senate appropriators have been slower to consider the FY 2019 appropriations bills, having only passed four bills out of committee. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) has been hesitant to comment on when he expects to see spending bills considered in the full Senate. To provide more time to consider appropriations bills and presidential nominations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has cancelled most of the Senate’s annual August recess, signaling that completing government spending for FY 2019 remains a priority. Read COSSA’s analysis of FY 2019 spending so far and stay tuned for updates on appropriations impacting social and behavioral science research.

Census Issues Request for Comment on Decennial Data Collection

In compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act, the Census Bureau issued a request for comments on the 2020 Census on June 8. The request provides an opportunity for feedback on the Bureau’s proposed information collection activities associated with the 2020 Census, including the addition of a citizenship question (which COSSA opposes). Comments must be submitted by August 7, 2018. More information is available in the Federal Register notice.

Minerva Initiative Releases 2018 Funding Opportunity Announcement, Topics of Interest

The Minerva Research Initiative, the social science research program administered jointly by the Office of Basic Research and the Office of Policy at the U.S. Department of Defense, has released its 2018 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and 2018 topics of interest. The Minerva Research Initiative supports university-based, unclassified, research in areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security policy. Research topics of interest for 2018 include: sociopolitical (in)stability, resilience, and recovery; economic interdependence and security; alliances and burden sharing; fundamental dynamics of scientific discovery; adversarial information campaigns; automated cyber vulnerability analysis; and security risks in ungoverned and semi-governed spaces.

White papers in response to the FOA are due on June 19 and full proposals must be submitted by August 14. More information can be found on the Minerva Research Initiative Website.

BLS Releases New Data on the “Gig Economy”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released new data on contingent and alternative employment arrangements, the first data of its kind released since 2005. The data includes totals for contingent workers (whose jobs are temporary or otherwise not expected to last), independent contractors, on-call workers, temp workers, and workers provided by contract firms. In addition to this data, BLS is testing questions on short-term work found through websites or mobile apps and expects to release data on this population in September. More information about the release is available on the BLS website.

NASEM Report Outlines Future of Graduate STEM Education

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) recently released a new consensus study report on Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century, which outlines ways to better to prepare students from all backgrounds for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The study was written by a committee chaired by Alan Leshner, CEO Emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Burroughs Welcome Fund, the Institute of Education Sciences, and the Spencer Foundation.

The report describes an ideal system of STEM graduate education and outlines core competencies for master’s and doctoral STEM degrees. The report makes a number of recommendations to achieve this vision, including funding for research on graduate STEM education; rewarding effective teaching and mentoring; collecting national and institutional data on students and graduates; ensuring diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning environments; career exploration and preparation for graduate students; changes to the structure of doctoral research activities; and stronger support for graduate student mental health services. The full report is available to download for free on the NASEM website.

New NASEM Report Identifies “Indicators for Monitoring Undergraduate STEM Education”

On May 21, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) hosted a webinar to mark the release of a new report, Indicators for Monitoring Undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education. The goal of the report was to improve undergraduate STEM education by developing metrics by which it can be measured. To do this, NASEM conducted a consensus study of indicators that would allow STEM education quality to be tracked over time. The report found that improving the quality and impact of undergraduate STEM education would require progress towards: (1) “increasing students’ mastery of STEM concepts and skills,” (2) “striving for equity, diversity, and inclusion of STEM students and instructors,” and (3) “ensuring adequate numbers of STEM professionals by increasing completion of STEM credentials.” The objectives and their corresponding indicators in this study each fall under one of these three goals.

The report concludes that to monitor the status and quality of undergraduate STEM education, national data systems need to not only track both full- and part-time students’ paths across and within institutions, but must also include more demographic characteristics to ensure progress towards equity, diversity, and inclusion. There is a need for recurring longitudinal surveys of instructors and students, and, due to the limited availability of data for the study’s indicators, new data collection is needed for many of them. The report contains several proposals for how the indicator system could be implemented, including national student data systems, expanding current federal institutional surveys, and developing a national representative student sample, each supplemented with expanded surveys of students and instructors. The complete report is available to download on the NASEM website.

This article was contributed by COSSA’s summer intern, Catherine Cox of the University of Michigan.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.


Past Newsletters



Browse 40 years of the COSSA Washington Update.