Issue 02 (January 22)


Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act Becomes Law

On January 14, President Trump signed the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 into law. Championed by former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the legislation represents a bipartisan recognition of the importance of science and data in helping to design and improve policies (see COSSA’s previous coverage for more details on the legislation). After the bill was signed, COSSA released a statement applauding the legislation. We will continue to report on details of the bill’s implementation as they become available.

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Committees Begin to Announce Leadership, Membership as FY 2019 Funding Remains Uncertain

While some parts of the federal government, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of the Interior, and the Census Bureau, remain closed as part of the partial government shutdown, Congress is at work organizing committees, selecting leaders, and preparing for the work of the 116th Congress. Many Congressional leadership positions important to the social and behavioral sciences have been announced over the past few weeks.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have both announced their subcommittee leadership, and while leadership on Senate subcommittees important to the social and behavioral sciences will remain unchanged from the last Congress, new House leadership has come along with the new House majority. Representative José Serrano (D-NY) will chair the subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) will lead the subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Their Republican counterparts will be Representatives Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and Tom Cole (R-OK), respectively.

Many changes have come to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which is responsible for policy related to the National Science Foundation (NSF), among numerous other programs. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) will serve as the new Chair of the Committee for the 116th Congress and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will serve as the Ranking Member. The Senate Commerce Committee also announced a new subcommittee structure, with science policy now paired with fisheries, weather, and oceans; the newly-structured subcommittee will be chaired by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO). Senator Gardner was one of the recipients of the 2017 COSSA Distinguished Service Award. As previously reported, the House Science Committee has also announced full committee leadership. Stay tuned to the COSSA Washington Update for more committee and leadership announcements in the coming weeks.

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Chairwoman Johnson Introduces Gun Violence Research Act

On January 11, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, introduced the National Gun Violence Research Act. If enacted, the law would create a national gun violence research program overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and carried out by the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice. In a statement released after the bill was introduced, Rep. Johnson said that more research is needed on the impact of policies on gun violence and that investment in gun violence is needed to curb gun violence. More information can be found on the Science Committee website.

The National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research, a private research effort, recently announced a request for proposals on the causes and consequences of gun violence. More information can be found in COSSA’s previous coverage.

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NSF Releases Information for Proposers and Grantees During Government Shutdown

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is one of many government agencies currently closed due to the partial government shutdown, which has now stretched into its fourth week. NSF has issued guidance for proposers and grantees on how proposal submissions and existing grants are affected by the government shutdown. While the government shutdown continues, no new funding opportunities will be issued. However, proposal preparation and submission for existing opportunities will be available through FastLane and, and proposal submissions will continue to be accepted and expected to follow existing deadlines. More information is available on the NSF website, though it is noted that NSF will not be available to respond to emails or phone calls during the lapse in appropriations.

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NIH Requests Input on Updated Definition of “Behavioral and Social Sciences Research”

On January 14, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a request for information (RFI): Request for Information (RFI): Input on Revised Definition of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research at NIH (NOT-OD-19-032). NIH’s Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) is in the process of updating the definition of “behavioral and social sciences research” (BSSSR) that it uses to assess and monitor NIH BSSR funding. The current definition was originally developed in 1996 but has been updated periodically since then. Like the current definition, the proposed definition is somewhat lengthy (the full definition is included in the RFI). It begins:

“The behavioral and social sciences at the NIH include a multi-disciplinary set of research disciplines that have in common the study of behavior and social processes relevant to health.

“BSSR at the NIH involves the systematic study of behavioral and social phenomena, as well as their causes and consequences:

    • ‘Behavioral’ refers to overt or observable actions and to mental phenomena such as knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, cognitions, and emotions that are inferred from behavior.
    • ‘Social’ refer to the interactions between and among individuals, and to the activities of social groups, institutions, and environments, including family, community, school, workplace, economic, cultural, and policy environments.”

NIH is interested in comments that discuss whether the new definition is clear, whether it captures the full range of the NIH’s health-related behavioral and social sciences research, and how well it distinguishes BSSR from other disciplines of research. Comments will be collected through OBSSR’s crowdsourcing IdeaScale website and must be submitted by February 22, 2019.

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OHRP Releases Draft Guidance for Transitioning Studies to Revised Common Rule; Comments Requested

The Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released draft guidance for transitioning studies to the revised Common Rule. The Common Rule is the set of regulations governing research involving human participants. After a lengthy revision process (see COSSA’s previous coverage), changes to the Common Rule updating a number of its provisions took effect on January 21, 2019. The draft guidance released by OHRP gives details on how an institution may voluntarily transition a study initiated before the implementation date to the new regulations. The complete draft guidance can be accessed on the OHRP website. Comments on the guidance are requested by February 11, 2019 and may be submitted via

In light of the new requirements taking effect, OHRP has also released more details on how institutional review boards (IRBs) should approach continuing review for studies eligible for expedited review under the new Common Rule on its website.

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