Issue 04 (February 19)


Compromise on FY 2019 Funding Reached, Averting Second Shutdown; Read COSSA’s Analysis of the Omnibus

After the longest partial-government shutdown in U.S. history, Congress came to a compromise on February 14 on funding the entire federal government for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2019, which began on October 1, 2018. The omnibus spending package contains 7 individual appropriations bills, including the Agriculture; Commerce, Justice, Science; Interior and Environment; Homeland Security; Financial Services and General Government; State and Foreign Operations; and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills. On February 15, President Trump signed the bill into law, closing a painful chapter and officially kicking off work on FY 2020 funding.

The final package includes necessary increases for many programs important to the social and behavioral sciences including the National Science Foundation and the Census Bureau.

The Trump Administration will soon release its budget request for FY 2020. While the budget will have very little bearing on the funding debates in Congress, it will provide valuable insight into the science policy and funding priorities of the Administration. At the end of the day, the Congress holds the power of the purse and decides the level of taxpayer support for research.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of final FY 2019 funding for the National Science Foundation, Census Bureau, Economic Research Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and National Institute of Justice.

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COSSA Submits Comments on Draft NICHD Strategic Plan

On January 2, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) released a request for information (RFI) to accompany the institute’s strategic plan for the next five years, allowing the community to comment on the scientific themes, goals, and opportunities under consideration in the new plan. On February 15, COSSA submitted an official response to the RFI on behalf of the social and behavioral science community. COSSA’s comments included the following recommendations:

  • The Strategic Plan should focus on the “whole person,” to include research on development at the molecular, cellular, social, environmental, behavioral, biobehavioral, and other levels.
  • The Strategic Plan should not overlook the importance of research at all stages of child development, from prenatal/infancy through adolescence, and in normative and non-normative or at-risk environments.
  • The Strategic Plan should strongly emphasize research on social determinants of health.

More information about the NICHD strategic plan can be found on the institute’s website; COSSA’s comments can be found here.

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COSSA Endorses Census Idea Act

On February 8, COSSA endorsed the Census Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy (IDEA) Act (S. 358) as introduced by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). The bill would prohibit the Department of Commerce from making any major change to the operational design of the decennial census that has not been “researched, studied, and tested” for at least three years. The Census Bureau routinely spends the years leading up to a decennial census carefully researching all proposed changes to its design and wording to ensure that they do not affect the quality of the responses received. This bill would formalize that longstanding practice and ensure that Census Bureau experts have the opportunity to fully evaluate the potential impacts of any major changes. The bill was crafted in response to the Trump Administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. COSSA released a statement in 2018 criticizing the inclusion of an untested citizenship question on the 2020 Census, outlining the potential impacts on the quality of Census data.

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Pingree Reintroduces Bill to Block USDA Research Moves

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) has reintroduced a bill from the last Congress that would prevent the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from moving the authority of any of the agencies within the USDA mission area of Research, Education, and Economics (REE) to elsewhere within the Department of Agriculture and from moving the headquarters of agencies within the REE mission area from outside of  the National Capitol Region. The bill, the Agriculture Research Integrity Act (ARIA) (H.R. 1221) would prevent the Administration’s controversial plans to move the Economic Research Service (ERS) to the Office of the Chief Economist and to physically move both ERS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) outside of the Washington, DC region (see COSSA’s coverage). The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Annie Kuster (D-NH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), and Mark Pocan (D-WI).

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Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Census Citizenship Question

The Supreme Court has announced that it will consider whether the Secretary of Commerce was within his rights to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census, after a judge in a lower court struck down the question in January. The Court agreed to hear arguments in the case in April and render a decision by the end of June to give the Administration enough time to make final preparations for the Census to be conducted next year. As COSSA has reported, the decision to add the citizenship question without conducting research to ensure the quality of Census data would be maintained has been a major concern for the science and research community.

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Department of Commerce Seeks Input on 2020 Census Data Collection

The Department of Commerce has released a request for information on whether the data collection planned for the 2020 Census meets the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act. Given the ongoing battle over the legality of the citizenship question (see previous article), the White House Office of Management and Budget, which is charged with ensuring the Bureau complies with administrative procedures, will evaluate the proposed data collection on two tracks: one containing the citizenship question and one without. According to the Federal Register notice: “Should the government prevail in pending litigation regarding the reinstatement of the citizenship question, the Census Bureau will include the citizenship question on the 2020 Census questionnaire.” The notice was originally released during the government shutdown but has been re-released to allow more time for stakeholders to submit comments. More information is available in the Federal Register notice. Comments must be submitted by March 15, 2019.

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AAAS CEO Rush Holt to Retire in 2019; Search Underway for Successor

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announced that chief executive Rush D. Holt will retire later in 2019. Holt has stated his intention to remain CEO until the fall of 2019 while the AAAS Board of Directors undergoes an international search for Holt’s successor. Holt, who came to AAAS in 2015, has been a long-time champion of national science policy. His tenure as CEO of AAAS follows a decorated career in science and public service including serving eight terms as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, as a visiting scholar for the Institute of Advanced Studies, an assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, an arms control expert for the U.S. State Department, a faculty member of Physics at Swarthmore College, and a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow.

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