Issue 22 (November 12)


Census Bureau Releases “Demonstration” Decennial Data Products, Working with National Academies to Collect Public Input

On October 29, the Census Bureau released a set of demonstration data products that show how the privacy measures planned for 2020 Census data would have applied to data from the 2010 Census. In a blog post, Census Bureau Chief Scientist John Abowd and Associate Director for Demographic Programs Victoria Velkoff assert that the “methods we used to protect the 2010 Census and earlier statistics can no longer adequately defend against today’s privacy threats.” They describe the new disclosure avoidance techniques planned to protect 2020 Census data and invite researchers and data users to experiment with the new demonstration products and determine if they meet their needs.

To assess the adequacy of the proposed data products, the Census Bureau is sponsoring a workshop on the demonstration data products on December 11-12 conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT). CNSTAT is requesting public comments from users of decennial data products—regardless of whether the demonstration products apply to their work—to inform the agenda of the workshop and to inform the Census Bureau’s final decision making about the 2020 products. CNSTAT seeks detailed input from data users on whether the demonstration products would be adequate, how critical the data products are to their research, how comparable the new products are to the 2010 products, and how to address the tension between privacy and accuracy of 2020 Census data. Full details on information requested and how to submit comments are available on the CNSTAT website. While there is no hard deadline for comments, comments received by December 4 will be the most helpful for the workshop organizers’ planning.

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November’s Headlines to Feature Deep Dive on 2020 Census

headlines bannerCOSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly COSSA Headlines webchat on Thursday November 14, in which COSSA staff will recap the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer participants’ questions. The November chat will feature Mary Jo Hoeksema, Director of Government Affairs for the Population Association of America and Co-Director of the Census Project, on the 2020 Census. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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FY 2020 Spending Still Uncertain, Continuing Resolution Likely Through December

As COSSA has reported, the federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution (CR), a stopgap measure that has frozen funding for federal agencies at fiscal year (FY) 2019 levels, which is set to expire on November 21. On October 31, the Senate made progress on its FY 2020 appropriations work by passing a package of four spending bills, including the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies bill that funds the National Science Foundation and Census Bureau, but leaving the fate of the remaining eight appropriations bills – and final year funding – uncertain. While the final decisions on FY 2020 spending are yet to be settled, reports from Congress indicate that leadership in both chambers and the White House have come to an agreement that the next CR should only last until mid-December, putting pressure on Congress to finish its work before the holidays.

COSSA released an Action Alert calling on members to communicate directly with their Senators and Representatives to urge them to complete work on FY 2020 funding as soon as possible to mitigate any further uncertainty to federal science and statistical agencies.

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House Committee Passes Higher Education Act Reauthorization

On October 31, the House Education and Labor Committee reported out its version of the Higher Education Act reauthorization bill, The College Affordability Act. The legislation includes a reauthorization of the Title VI International Education Programs and extends the six currently funded international education programs, including both Domestic Programs (also known as Title VI) and Overseas Programs (also known as Fulbright-Hays). The legislation also proposes that the funding level for International Education Programs should be increased to $125 million and be updated annually to account for inflation. This would be significantly higher than the $72.2 million appropriated in fiscal year (FY) 2019. The Committee hopes to bring their bill to the floor for full House consideration before the end of the year. More information, including the full bill text, can be found on the Committee’s website. While the legislation benefits from strong support in the Democratically-controlled House, it is not likely that it will considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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White House Hosts Summit of the Joint Committee on the Research Environment

The Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE), a committee of the National Science and Technology Council, hosted a White House Summit in Washington, DC on November 5. JCORE was established in May 2019 and, as COSSA has reported, is working to address some of the most pressing challenges facing America’s research and scientific community. COSSA, along with other members of the scientific community, attended and discussed topics including administrative burdens on federally funded research; rigor and integrity in research; and safe, inclusive, and equitable research settings. Representatives from industry, academia, and senior officials from the National Institutes of Health, Department of State, National Security Agency, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, Department of Defense, and National Institute of Standards and Technology also attended. Following the summit, JCORE released a summary including key takeaways in the areas of transparency, integrity, workload and coordination. COSSA will be closely following the work of JCORE; watch for COSSA’s coverage over the coming weeks and months.

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New Advisory Committee on Evidence Building Seeking Nominations

The Department of Commerce is accepting nominations for a new Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building, established by the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (see COSSA’s coverage) and in accordance with the Federal Data Strategy.  The Committee is authorized for two years and is tasked with assisting the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in carrying out its statutorily-mandated responsibilities related to evidence-building, “evaluating and providing recommendations to the OMB Director on how to facilitate data sharing, enable data linkage, and develop privacy enhancing techniques;” and “reviewing the coordination of data sharing or availability for evidence building across all agencies.”  The Committee will be chaired by the Chief Statistician of the United States, who will appoint members of the Committee from federal agencies. In addition, at least 10 members will be appointed from the non-federal stakeholder community, who will have expertise in transparency policy, privacy policy, statistical data use, information management, and information technology, as well as at least one member from the research and evaluation community. Nominations must be submitted by December 4, 2019. More details on the Committee and how to nominate members is available in the Federal Register notice.

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NIH to Host 2019 Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) is hosting the 2019 NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival on December 6 on NIH’s main campus in Bethesda, MD. The festival brings together researchers from around NIH and will feature three plenary sessions. Chanita Hughes-Halbert from the Medical University of South Carolina will serve as a keynote presenter and Alia Crum from Stanford University will serve as a featured presenter. Registration details and more information about the festival may be found on the OBSSR website.

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Sudip Parikh Named Next AAAS CEO

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has named Sudip Parikh its next CEO effective January 6, 2020. Parikh is currently Senior Vice President at DIA Global, a non-profit organization and publisher that mobilizes life science professionals from across all areas of expertise to engage with patients, peers, and thought leaders. He also worked at the research and development organization Battelle and served as a science advisor and professional staff for the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. Parikh will succeed Rush Holt, who left the organization in September. AAAS CEO Emeritus Alan Leshner has been Acting CEO in the interim.

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