Issue 15 (July 23)


AAAS’ Rush Holt Retires, Alan Leshner Named Acting CEO as Search for Successor Continues

On July 15, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announced that AAAS CEO Rush Holt will be on leave prior to his designated retirement date of September 1, 2019. Former AAAS CEO Alan Leshner has been named Acting CEO as the search for Holt’s permanent successor continues. Holt had announced in February of his intention to retire sometime later in 2019, sparking an international search for a new AAAS chief (read COSSA’s previous coverage).

Leshner served as AAAS CEO for 13 years prior to Holt’s tenure. He has served in a wide variety of leadership roles in federal science agencies including as director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), deputy and acting director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and numerous senior roles at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Leshner was the kickoff speaker at COSSA’s 2019 Social Science Advocacy Day training seminar earlier this spring.  More information may be found on the AAAS website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

White House Announces Winners of Early Career Awards in Science and Engineering

On July 2, the White House released a list of recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award recognizes scientists and engineers in the early stages of their research careers who show exceptional promise for the future of scientific leadership. Several social scientists were named among the recipients, showcasing expertise in fields such as economics, education, linguistics, public policy, psychology, sociology, and others. The full list of award recipients can be found on the White House website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

NSF Releases Dear Colleague Letter on Research Protection

The Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague Letter on July 11 summarizing efforts at the agency to address security risks to the U.S. science and engineering enterprise. The letter explains that while international collaboration is still a priority of NSF, they are instituting policies to ensure NSF research is protected from foreign interference and other security threats.

The letter outlines some upcoming and proposed policy changes related to research security. The imminent plans include changes to the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide to include clarifications of reporting requirements for support from NSF, both current and pending, as well as professional appointments. The draft Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide is currently open for comment in the Federal Register. Additionally, the agency is issuing a policy clarifying that NSF personnel and detailees working at the agency through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (or IPAs) cannot participate in foreign government talent recruitment programs.

The letter also includes a proposal, likely to take effect in January 2020, requiring grantees to use an electronic format for submission of biographical sketches, including disclosure of all appointments.

Lastly, NSF has commissioned the independent scientific advisory group JASON to conduct a study to assess risks and recommend possible practices for NSF and its awardee organizations to achieve the best balance between openness and security of science. More information and the Dear Colleague Letter can be found on the NSF website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

OMB Releases First Set of Evidence Act Guidance

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued the first set of guidance related to implementing the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (or Evidence Act), legislation that builds on the recommendations of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking to formalize the use of data and evidence in informing the everyday work of federal agencies. The guidance provides detailed information for federal agencies on developing Learning Agendas, which identify the agency’s priority questions to be informed by evidence; sets out the requirements and responsibilities for the senior roles mandated by the legislation—Chief Data Officer, Evaluation Officer, and Statistical Official; and provides direction on creating evaluation plans, undertaking capacity assessments, and identifying data needs. The full guidance is available online. OMB will release additional Evidence Act guidance covering open data access and management, data access for statistical purposes, and program evaluation in the coming months.

Back to this issue’s table of contents. 

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Scientific Integrity at Federal Agencies

On July 17, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hosted a joint subcommittee hearing on scientific integrity in federal agencies. The hearing, which was hosted by the Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, included discussion of current and past issues of scientific integrity in the federal government and H.R. 1709, the Scientific Integrity Act. The Scientific Integrity Act, introduced by Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY), directs federal agencies that fund or direct public science to establish and maintain clear scientific integrity principles and formalizes existing scientific integrity policies. The bill also clarifies that science within the federal government should determine policy without political, ideological, or financial conflicts of interest.

Witnesses included John Neumann, the Managing Director of Science and Technology Assessment at the Government Accountability Office (GAO); Michael Halpern, the Deputy Director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists; Dr. Roger Pielke, a professor in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado; and Joel Clement of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. Both Democrat and Republican members of the committee emphasized the importance of scientific integrity in their statements, but recommended different approaches moving forward; Democrats recommended the committee advance the Scientific Integrity Act, while Republicans argued that the issue of scientific integrity was being politicized and science advice was being inappropriately conflated with policy recommendations.

A recording of the hearing and statements from committee leadership and witnesses can be found on the committee’s website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Congress and White House Strike Budget Deal Before Congress Leaves for Recess

As Congress prepares to leave for its annual August recess, Congressional leaders have struck a deal with the White House to raise the budget caps and debt ceiling for the coming fiscal years. The deal will allow for an increase in defense and non-defense discretionary spending, and provide relief from the final two years of automatic budget cuts put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. This deal means that increases are now possible for programs across the government, including research, healthcare, and the upcoming 2020 Census. As COSSA has reported, the House of Representatives is nearly done working on fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations, but the Senate was delaying any spending decisions until a deal was reached to address the limits discretionary spending. The Senate is now expected to start working in haste to draft spending bills after they return from recess. Congress has until the end of September to finish work on FY 2020, pass a continuing resolution, or risk another government shutdown.

COSSA has also released an Action Alert for COSSA Members to communicate directly with their Senators to urge them to support social science research.

Back to this issue’s table of contents. 

Administration Ends Attempts to Add Citizenship to 2020 Census

On July 11, President Trump announced that he would no longer seek to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census. The announcement appears to resolve over a year of controversy and confusion, which culminated in a tumultuous two weeks that included a Supreme Court ruling stating the question could not be asked unless the Administration could provide a better explanation, an announcement that the Census Bureau had begun printing materials without a citizenship question, a commitment from the Department of Justice to continue fighting to add the question back in, and upheaval in the government’s legal team. Census stakeholders are hoping that the resolution of this issue can allow preparations for the Census to move forward smoothly and allow the community to focus on encouraging full participation in the 2020 Census. COSSA issued a statement praising the decision.

While the Administration will no longer seek to modify the 2020 questionnaire, President Trump signed an executive order that directs the Census Bureau to compile estimates of citizenship using existing data from administrative records. However, the order has little practical impact on the Census Bureau, as it already had access to the majority of the data in question and in fact originally proposed producing such estimates as a less costly and more accurate alternative to adding a citizenship question to the decennial census.

Congressional committees have shifted their focus from the citizenship question to ensuring an accurate count on the 2020 Census. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hosted Census Director Steven Dillingham, along with representatives of the Government Accountability Office, last week and the House Oversight and Reform Committee will examine how to reach an accurate census count later this week.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.


Past Newsletters



Browse 40 years of the COSSA Washington Update.