Issue 14 (July 9)


National Science Board Seeks Nominations for 2020 Honorary Awards

The National Science Board (NSB), the policy-making body of the National Science Foundation (NSF), has issued a solicitation for nominations for its 2020 honorary awards. The NSB honors outstanding research leaders annually through its Vannevar Bush Award and Public Service Award.

The Vannevar Bush Award is given to leaders “who have made exceptional contributions toward the welfare of humankind and the nation through public service activities in science, technology, and public policy.” The Public Service Award honors individuals or groups who have made “substantial contributions to increasing public understanding of science and engineering in the United States,” such as through education and training, social media, and other areas. Nominations for the 2020 awards are due by September 27, 2019.

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House Science Committee Hosts Hearing on Societal and Ethical Implications of Artificial Intelligence

On June 26, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hosted a hearing to examine the societal and ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI). The committee heard testimony from Meredith Whittaker of the AI Now Institute at New York University, Jack Clark of OpenAI, Joy Boulamwini of the Algorithmic Justice League, and Georgia Tourassi of the Health Data Sciences Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Committee Members and witnesses discussed the impact of AI on bias, the changing nature of work due to AI, and the impact of AI on the economy, including the delivery of healthcare. Social science was highlighted multiple times as one of the areas where additional research is most needed. The Science Committee is expected to begin working on bipartisan legislation to support a national strategy on AI in the coming months. A recording of the hearing and copies of witness statements are available on the committee’s website.

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House Nearly Finalizes Appropriations; Senate Movement Uncertain

Before Congress left for its annual Independence Day recess, the House of Representatives got a few steps closer to completing its work on fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations. At the time of this writing, the House has passed ten of its twelve appropriations bills, with only the Homeland Security and Legislative Branch funding bills remaining. The House has passed funding for agencies important for social science including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and Department of Agriculture. Details about the proposed funding for those agencies can be found in COSSA’s full analyses of the Commerce, Justice, Science; Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education; and Agriculture appropriations bills on COSSA’s website.

While the House has finalized nearly all of its appropriations bills, the Senate has signaled that they expect a deal on top-line funding levels or “caps” before beginning work on individual appropriations bills. Congress and the White House have not agreed on final discretionary spending levels for FY 2020, so it is unclear when the Senate Appropriations Committee will start the process of considering FY 2020 bills. As COSSA has reported, discretionary budget caps must be raised if federal agencies and programs are to receive any funding increases in FY 2020. Read COSSA’s full analysis of FY 2020 spending on the COSSA website.

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July’s Headlines Webchat to Feature Deep Dive on 2020 Census

COSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly Headlines webchat on Thursday, July 11, in which COSSA staff will recap the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer participants’ questions. The July chat will feature a deep dive discussion on the state of the 2020 Census with Ron Wasserstein, Executive Director of the American Statistical Association. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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Save the Date for Social Science Advocacy Day 2020

COSSA’s 2020 Social Science Advocacy Day, the only annual, coordinated advocacy day in support of all of the social and behavioral sciences, will take place on March 30-31, 2020. Social Science Advocacy Day brings together social scientists and other science advocates from across the country to engage with policymakers in Washington, DC.

COSSA provides in-depth training and logistical support (including scheduling meetings with Congressional offices and providing an on-call expert to answer day-of policy questions) as well as polished, up-to-date materials to help advocates bring their message to Capitol Hill. Participants are teamed up with other advocates from their area and partnered with experienced government relations professionals who will guide them through their meetings with members of Congress and staff. Watch for more details in the COSSA Washington Update and on the Advocacy Day webpage.

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Census Citizenship Question Saga Continues

Despite a decision from the Supreme Court, the fate of the Census citizenship question remains uncertain. While the ruling was expected to be the final word on whether the government could include a question on citizenship on the 2020 Census, the Supreme Court decided on June 27 that the question could only be asked if the government provided a different, more acceptable justification. However, with time running out to begin printing the necessary forms and other lawsuits working their way through lower courts, it was unclear whether enough time remained for the government to provide such a justification. See COSSA’s analysis of the decision for more details.

On July 2, the federal government announced that it had begun printing Census forms without a citizenship question, in what many believed to be an end to the controversy. However, after confusion and contradictory tweets from the President, federal officials said they were still looking for a way to add the question to the Census and intended to continue to fight the legal challenges. The government’s legal team defending the question was also replaced, in a sign that the Administration is not planning to accede to the standing rulings striking the question.

At this stage, many questions remain as to what Census documents are currently being printed, how much time the Census Bureau can realistically hold off on further printing without damaging the Census operation, how the Administration intends to justify the question, and whether enough time remains for the question to proceed through the court system. COSSA will continue to report on developments in the Washington Update.

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