Issue 08 (April 16)


COSSA to Honor Leaders in Evidence-Based Policymaking with 2019 Awards

COSSA will recognize two sets of champions of the evidence-based policymaking movement with its 2019 awards (read the full press release). COSSA’s 2019 Distinguished Service Award will be presented to Katharine Abraham and Ron Haskins, whose leadership of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking helped catalyze efforts across federal agencies to integrate science- and evidence-based decision-making into the everyday work of government. COSSA will also present its first-ever Public Impact Award to The Lab @ DC, a team of social scientists working within the District of Columbia government to use scientific methods and insights to test and improve District policies and programs. Members of the COSSA community are invited to attend the presentation of the awards at COSSA’s annual Celebration of Social Science Reception on April 30, 2019, which is part of COSSA’s 2019 Social Science Advocacy Day festivities. RSVP for the reception here.

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. The newly established COSSA Public Impact Award seeks to celebrate ways individuals or organizations are using social and behavioral science research to achieve notable improvements in communities. Awardees are chosen by the COSSA Board of Directors, which represents COSSA’s governing member associations. More information about the awards is available on COSSA’s website.

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COSSA Submits FY 2020 Testimony to House Appropriations Committee in Support of Science Funding

As it does each year, COSSA submitted outside witness testimony to the House Appropriations subcommittees responsible for funding federal agencies important to the social sciences.

COSSA submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for calling for increased funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Census Bureau in fiscal year (FY) 2020.

COSSA also submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies calling for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Institute for Education Sciences (IES), and International Education and Foreign Language Programs (Title VI and Fulbright-Hays).

These and other statements are available on the COSSA website.

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Talks Continue as Congress Attempts to Raise Budget Caps

As previously reported, fiscal year (FY) 2020 discretionary spending is subject to austere caps that were put in place in 2011 as part of a larger effort to significantly reduce the size of the federal budget over 10 years. The Budget Control Act of 2011, or BCA, put in place caps on discretionary spending for both nondefense and defense spending for the period of 2013 through 2021. COSSA joined a letter with over 800 organizational signatures urging Congress to raise these spending caps.

Congressional leaders are now considering several solutions to raise the discretionary spending caps and are currently taking part in high-level negotiations. Proposals include a possible comprehensive multi-year budget resolution, a less-restrictive “deeming resolution,” or legislation that would undo the budget cap requirements altogether. This most notable legislation, H.R. 2021, the Investing for the People Act of 2019, was introduced by Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY), Chair of the House Budget Committee, and would increase discretionary spending limits for the next two fiscal years. COSSA has also joined NDD United to support the passage of H.R. 2021.

COSSA has also released an Action Alert for COSSA Members to communicate directly with their Members of Congress on the importance of raising the caps on non-defense discretionary spending.

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Congress Holds Hearings on FY 2020 NIH Budget

On April 2, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) hosted leadership from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to testify on the agency’s fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget request on April 2. Present were NIH Director Francis Collins, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Director Diana Bianchi, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Director Gary Gibbons, National Cancer Institute (NCI) Deputy Director Doug Lowy, and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow. Members from both parties praised NIH for its accomplishments, solidifying its position as a bipartisan priority.

Full Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY), Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK), and other members of the subcommittee expressed concern with the $4.9 billion cut recommended in the President’s FY 2020 budget request, especially in contrast to the $2 billion increase NIH received from Congress in FY 2019. Committee members questioned the witnesses on the health trends associated with e-cigarettes and vaping, Schedule 1 substance research, the growing measles epidemic, health disparities among women and minorities, and NIH’s testing of medical treatments on animals. A written statement from Collins, along with a recording of the hearing can be found on the committee’s website.

The following week on April 11, the Senate Appropriations LHHS Subcommittee held its budget hearing with NIH leaders, including Drs. Collins, Fauci, Lowy, and Volkow, as well as National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Director Griffin Rodgers, National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Director Jon Lorsch, and National Institute on Aging (NIA) Director Richard Hodes. As in the House, NIH received bipartisan praise from Subcommittee members. Several senators, including Full Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL), Subcommittee Chair Roy Blunt (R-MO), Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) expressed concern with the cut in the President’s 2020 budget. Committee members questioned the witnesses on NIH activities relating to foreign government espionage and theft of research, preventing sexual harassment in research settings, NIH’s relationship with private research entities, developing young scientists, the opioid epidemic, and the growing measles epidemic. Written statements from Blunt and Collins, along with a recording of the hearing can be found on the committee’s website.

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OMB Seeks Feedback on Length of Executive Branch Comment Prohibition for Release of Economic Indicators

Statistical Policy Directive No. 3 recommends Executive Branch employees refrain from commenting on the release of principal federal economic indicators for 60 minutes after their release. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is seeking public comment on whether that 60-minute window is still appropriate given the many changes in the information landscape since the policy directive was issued in 1985. OMB is not considering changes to the embargo on the release of any information or comment about federal statistics before their official release by the statistical agencies, only whether policy officials should be allowed to comment earlier than 60 minutes after their release.

The text under consideration is:

“Except for members of the staff of the agency issuing the principal economic indicator who have been designated by the agency head to provide technical explanations of the data, employees of the Executive Branch shall not comment publicly on the data until at least one hour after the official release time.”

The goal of this language was to draw a sharp distinction between “the release of the statistics and their accompanying explanation and analysis, on the one hand, and the more general type of policy-oriented comment which is a function of the official responsible for policy making, on the other.” However, given that statistical agencies can now publicly release their data on their own websites and disseminate them through social media, and that these releases can be reported on nearly instantaneously by the media, OMB is seeking guidance on whether 60 minutes is still the right length of time to avoid comments from policy officials within the Executive Branch (or if the window is still necessary at all). It should be noted that it is the position of the White House Counsel that the President does not qualify as an “employee” of the Executive Branch, but any officials within Executive Branch agencies who disseminate his comments (retweeting him, for example), would be subject to these rules.

Full details on the request for comments are available in the Federal Register notice. Comments must be submitted by June 10, 2019.

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