Issue 13 (June 25)


President Issues Executive Order to Reduce Number of Federal Advisory Committees

On June 14, the White House released an executive order directing federal agencies to eliminate at least one-third of their advisory committees by October 2019. The executive order applies to committees established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and provides exemptions for committees authorized in statute and merit review panels that are “necessary to fund extramural research.” While merit review panels are exempt from the order, science advisory committees—important for delivering scientific advice and guidance to agency leaders across the government—are not.

Agencies are directed to terminate at least one-third of their advisory committees by the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2019. Agencies can seek waivers from the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) if committees are “necessary for the delivery of essential services, for effective program delivery, or because it is otherwise warranted by the public interest.” The order can be read on the White House website and a database of FACA committees is available online. COSSA will be monitoring these developments and will report on any changes within agencies important to the social science community.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Communication Researchers Answer “Why Social Science?”

why-social-scienceThe latest Why Social Science? guest post comes from communication researchers Leanne Knobloch of the University of Illinois and Steven R. Wilson of the University of South Florida, who write about how social science has helped us better meet the needs of U.S. servicemen and women. Read it here and subscribe.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

House Passes First of FY 2020 Bills

The House of Representatives passed the first set of fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations bills on June 21, including the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies bill, which is responsible for funding the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Education, among other agencies. The House next turned to consideration of another package of bills, including the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies bill (CJS), which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Census Bureau, among other agencies. At the time of publication, the House is still considering the CJS bill package, but is expected to pass nearly all twelve appropriations bills before Congress leaves for Independence Day recess.

While the House has nearly completed its appropriations work, the Senate Appropriations Committee is waiting for top-level discretionary funding (known within the Beltway as “302a allocations”) to be finalized before proceeding on their versions of the FY 2020 appropriations bills. As COSSA has reported, discretionary budget caps must be raised if federal agencies and programs are to realize any funding increases in FY 2020.

Follow COSSA’s reporting on FY 2020 appropriations here and take action on social science funding and spending caps here.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Sexual Harassment in Science, Passes Bipartisan Bills

On June 12, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (SST) held a hearing to discuss combatting sexual harassment in scientific and research-oriented settings. Witnesses included Managing Director of Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) John Neumann, Wellesley College President Dr. Paula Johnson, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Boston University Dr. Jean Morrison, and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of California, Davis Dr. Phillip Kass.

SST Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) both expressed concern about the prevalence of sexual harassment in science and research and questioned the witnesses on best practices for prevention and reporting. Some of the topics raised in the hearing included the inconsistencies in policies of federal research agencies, the cultural forces that discourage the reporting and prevention of sexual harassment, successful prevention techniques used by other countries such as the United Kingdom’s Athena SWAN program, and the drastically higher rates of sexual harassment facing women of color. Some recommendations offered by the witnesses included increasing staff and funding for prevention and reporting at federal agencies, making prevention and reporting policies uniform across federal agencies, introducing better sexual harassment training at research settings, and increasing diversity in research settings. A statement from Chairwoman Johnson and a recording of the full hearing are available on the SST Committee website.

The following week on June 20, the SST Committee marked up the STEM Opportunities Act of 2019 (H.R. 2528), the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 (H.R. 36), and the Expanding Findings for Federal Opioid Research and Treatment Act (H.R. 3153), among others.  The bills held bipartisan support from the SST Committee members and amendments for H.R. 2528 and H.R. 36 were agreed upon in order to incorporate stakeholder input and to clarify language. COSSA officially endorsed the sexual harassment bill earlier this year. A statement from Chairwoman Johnson and a recording of the markup are available on the SST Committee website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

OSTP Requests Information for Research Strategy to End Veteran Suicide

The While House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a request for information (RFI) for the National Research Strategy portion of the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS). PREVENTS was established by executive order in March 2019 and includes a National Research Strategy to advance efforts to improve quality of life and reduce the rate of suicide among veterans.

OSTP hopes to better coordinate research within and beyond the Federal government, and enhance cross-disciplinary research into the social, behavioral, and biological determinants of wellness and brain health. The deadline for responses to the RFI is July 15, 2019. Questions to inform the National Research Strategy and additional information are available in the Federal Register Notice.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Administration Releases Updated Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Plan

On June 21, the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) released a 2019 update to its Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research and Development Plan. The first national AI R&D plan was released in 2016 and has been updated to include strategic priorities and accounts for new research and technologies in AI. The new strategic priorities include: making long-term investments in AI research; developing effective methods for human-AI collaboration; understanding and addressing the ethical, legal, and societal implications of AI; ensuring the safety and security of AI systems; developing shared public datasets and environments for AI training and testing; and expanding public-private partnerships to accelerate advances in AI; among others.

Artificial Intelligence is a priority of the Trump Administration and several federal research agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), have incorporated and highlighted AI research and development at their agencies. More about the NIH AI initiatives can be found on the NIH website and more about the NSF AI initiatives can be found on the NSF website.

More information about the Trump Administration’s effort on AI can be found on the White House website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.


Past Newsletters



Browse 40 years of the COSSA Washington Update.