Issue 10 (May 14)


COSSA Holds Largest-Ever Social Science Advocacy Day

COSSA held its largest-ever Social Science Advocacy Day on May 1. Over 70 social and behavioral science researchers, stakeholders, and advocates met with their Members of Congress and staff to advocate in support of funding for federal agencies and programs that support social and behavioral science research. Advocates from 20 states converged on Capitol Hill, completing 77 individual meetings.  Materials used to help articulate the value of social science research are available on the COSSA website, including fact sheets on COSSA’s FY 2019 funding requests and new topical one-pagers. To participate in social science advocacy from home, visit COSSA’s Take Action page.

The previous day, COSSA hosted an Advocacy Day prep seminar, which featured a kickoff presentation from Alan Leshner, CEO Emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Leshner’s talk, “Why Support Social Science—and How to Say It,” drew on his experience leading several high-profile National Academies panels, The Value of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences to National Priorities and Communicating Science Effectively. Leshner encouraged advocates to focus on framing their interactions with policymakers as a conversation, rather than attempting to “educate” their audience. He advised participants to use narratives in their discussions, connect their research to local issues, and try to avoid dichotomies like “hard” and “soft” science or “qualitative” and “quantitative” research. Leshner observed that while the social sciences have indeed historically faced skepticism from policymakers, today, many understand that insights from these sciences will be required to address complex problems—and social scientists should take advantage of this opportunity to further communicate the value of their disciplines.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

May’s Headlines to Feature Deep Dive on Academies’ Decadal Survey of Social Science Applications for Intelligence Analysis

headlines bannerCOSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly Headlines webchat on May 16, in which COSSA staff will recap the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer participants’ questions. The May chat will feature a deep dive discussion with guests from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to discuss their recent consensus study report, A Decadal Survey of the Social and Behavioral Sciences: A Research Agenda for Advancing Intelligence Analysis. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

COSSA Submits FY 2020 Testimony to Senate Appropriations Committee in Support of Social Science Funding for NSF, Census, NIJ, and BJS

As it does each year, COSSA submitted outside witness testimony to the Congressional Appropriations subcommittees responsible for funding federal agencies important to the social sciences. COSSA submitted testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies 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. All of COSSA’s FY 2020 testimony is posted on the COSSA website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

House Committee Approves FY 2020 Spending for NIH, CDC, BLS, AHRQ, ED

On May 8, the House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bill; the Labor-HHS Subcommittee advanced the bill on April 30. This bill contains annual funding proposals for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Education (ED), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), among other federal departments and agencies. In a departure from what has become regular practice, the Labor-HHS bill was one of the first out the gate this year; the often-contentious bill is typically considered later in the appropriations process once more bipartisan bills have been advanced.

At a glance…

  • The House bill includes a total of $41.084 billion for NIH in FY 2020, a $2 billion or 5 percent increase over the FY 2019 level.
  • The bill includes $8.2 billion for the CDC, a $920.6 million increase above the FY 2019 enacted level and $1.7 billion above the Administration’s request for FY 2020.
  • The House bill would provide $358.2 million for AHRQ in FY 2020, a 6 percent or $20.2 million increase compared to FY 2019.
  • The bill would provide BLS with $675.8 million, an increase of $60.8 million from FY 2019.
  • Within the Department of Education, the bill would provide $650 million to the IES, which would be a 5.6 percent increase compared to its FY 2019 enacted level and 24.6 percent above the FY 2020 funding request from the Administration.

Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the House Appropriations Committee’s proposals for the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Department of Education.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on NSF Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request

On May 8, the Research and Technology Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to discuss the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2020. Witnesses included NSF Director Dr. France Córdova and National Science Board Chair Dr. Diane Souvaine.

Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Haley Stevens (D-MI) presided over the hearing and used her opening statement to highlight the accomplishments of NSF and its important role as the only federal agency that supports basic research across all disciplines of science. She also drew attention to the fact that NSF serves as the primary source of federal research funds for some disciplines, including social science. Stevens further expressed appreciation for NSF’s commitment to the Ten Big Ideas Initiative but noted concern about the balance between supporting the Big Ideas and NSF’s core research portfolio.

Drs. CĂłrdova and Souvaine highlighted the Ten Big Ideas and the importance of convergent research in their testimony. Additional topics discussed by members of the subcommittee and NSF leadership included social and behavioral dimensions of artificial intelligence research, preventing sexual harassment in science, and effective partnerships with the private sector.

Unlike in NSF budget hearings of the past few years, Republicans and Democrats joined together to applaud NSF’s support of basic research and to raise concern about the Administration’s proposal to decrease the NSF’s budget by nearly a billion dollars. The full hearing can be viewed on the Committee’s website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

National Science Board Accepting Nominations

Nominations are being sought for new members of the National Science Board (NSB), the policy-making body of the National Science Foundation (NSF) that also serves as an independent advisor to the President and Congress on federal science policy. The Board consists of 24 members who serve staggered six-year terms, with the NSF director serving as a 25th ex officio member. Nominations are considered by the NSB, which makes recommendations to the White House and new members of the Board are appointed by the President. For the incoming class of 2020-2026, the NSB is particularly interested in individuals with expertise in enterprise risk management, sociology, applied math and statistics, STEM education, among others. The complete list and other selection criteria are available in the NSB’s Dear Colleague letter. More information on the nomination process is available on the NSB website. Nominations are due by May 31, 2019.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

NSF Convergence Accelerator Seeks Next Topics

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a request for information (RFI) on future topics for the NSF Convergence Accelerator. The Convergence Accelerator is a new capability within NSF to accelerate use-inspired, convergence research in areas of national importance via partnerships between academic and non-academic stakeholders and is currently focusing on the Big Ideas of Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF) and Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR). The main purpose of this RFI is to seek ideas for future NSF Convergence Accelerator tracks. NSF seeks suggestions for future tracks that build on the foundational research developed by the HDR and FW-HTF Big Ideas that should be suitable for a multidisciplinary, convergence research approach, should address a grand challenge problem, and should have the potential to leverage partnerships between industry and academic researchers. Researchers and other stakeholders at higher education institutions, industry, non-profits and government entities are all invited to submit concepts for future NSF Convergence Accelerator tracks.

More information about the RFI can be found in the NSF’s Dear Colleague letter. More information about the Convergence Accelerator can be found on the NSF’s website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

White House Announces New Joint Committee on U.S. Research Community

On May 6, the White House National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) announced the formation of a new Joint Committee led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) addressing the issues and burdens facing the U.S. research community. Specific issues the Joint Committee will address are administrative burdens on federally funded research, rigor and integrity in research, inclusive and equitable research settings, and protecting American research assets. The Joint Committee will also engage with the research community for input on policy making. The Joint Committee’s membership will be comprised of OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, National Science Foundation Director France Córdova, National Institute of Standards and Technology Director Walt Copan, and Undersecretary for Science at the Department of Energy Paul Dabbar. More information about the NSTC can be found on the OSTP website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Minerva Initiative Releases 2019 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 2019 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and its 2019 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 2019 include: peer/near-peer statecraft, influence, and regional balance of power; power, deterrence, and escalation management; alliances and burden sharing; economic interdependence and security; economic viability, resilience, and sustainability of logistics infrastructure; multi-domain behavioral complexity and computational social modeling; autonomy, artificial intelligence, machine ethics, and social interactions; models and methods for understanding covert online influence; and automated cyber vulnerability analysis.

White papers in response to the FOA are due by June 20 and full proposals must be submitted by September 26. More information can be found on the Minerva Research Initiative website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

OBSSR Releases Revised Definition of “Behavioral and Social Sciences Research”

The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has completed its revision of NIH’s definition of “behavioral and social sciences research” (BSSR) (see previous coverage) after crowdsourcing input from stakeholders. The new definition begins:

“Behavioral and social sciences research at the National Institutes of Health involves the systematic study of behavioral1 and social2 phenomena relevant to health3.

1“Behavioral phenomena” refers to the observable actions of individuals or groups and to mental phenomena such as knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, motivations, perceptions, cognitions, and emotions.

2“Social phenomena” refers to the interactions between and among individuals, and to the characteristics, structures, and functions of social groups and institutions, such as families, communities, schools, and workplaces, as well as the physical, economic, cultural, and policy environments in which social and behavioral phenomena occur.

3”Health” refers to state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (as per WHO).”

The complete definition is posted on the OBSSR website. In an email message announcing the revision, the Office said that “some suggestions, although not reflected in the BSSR definition, will be used to for future blog post topics to share in-depth discussion of the areas of science that are included in the BSSR at NIH.”

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

NASEM Report Analyzes Factors for Reproducibility and Replicability in Scientific Research

In response to a Congressional directive to conduct a comprehensive study of issues related to reproducibility and replicability of scientific research, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has released a new report, Reproducibility and Replicability in Science. The consensus study report defines the terms “reproducibility” – or getting similar results using the same research methods – and “replicability” – getting similar results across multiple research methods – as they relate to research practices. The report sets forth several steps on how to improve the reproducibility and replicability of research, including identifying clear descriptions of how the reported result was reached, providing training for scientific institutions on proper statistical analysis, investing in tools and infrastructure that support reproducibility, encouraging journals to consider reproducibility factors in publications, and having the National Science Foundation (NSF) facilitate the sharing of data for NSF-funded research. The report also considers how the public’s confidence in scientific findings can be improved by two factors: first, that scientists avoid overstating the implications of their research to public-facing audiences, and second, that journalists report on scientific results with “as much context and nuance as the medium allows.” The full report can be found on the National Academies website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.


Past Newsletters



Browse 40 years of the COSSA Washington Update.