Issue 24 (December 10)


NIH Updates Diversity Statement

On November 22, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a notice updating the agency’s official statement on diversity in research settings. In a blog post by Deputy Director for Extramural Research at NIH Dr. Mike Lauer, the main reason for the updated statement was to expand the criteria for qualifying as an individual from a low socio-economic background. In the post, Lauer claims “this revised definition should better capture many scientists with a disadvantaged background, and be relatively easy to assess, ensuring we continue enhancing the diversity of the biomedical research workforce.” The updated diversity statement and the previous diversity statement can both be found on the NIH website.

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Congress Rushes to Finish FY 2020 as Schedule Fills

The federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution (CR), keeping the government open until December 20 at fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding levels. With less than two weeks left before the current stopgap spending bill expires, appropriators are hoping to finalize all twelve appropriations bills and pass them as soon as possible. In addition to the normal pressures of wrapping up annual appropriations before the holidays, Congressional leaders must also complete their year-end goals related to impeachment. The House has announced plans to vote on articles of impeachment before the end of the year and the Senate must clear its schedule as legislative activities will grind to a halt during an impeachment trial. Stay tuned to COSSA’s website and Member Messages for updates related to FY 2020 appropriations.

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December’s Headlines to Feature Deep Dive on Threats to Research Security

headlines bannerCOSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly COSSA Headlines webchat on Thursday December 12, in which COSSA staff will recap the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer participants’ questions. The December chat will feature a deep dive discussion on understanding the threats to U.S. research security with Toby Smith, Vice President for Policy at the Association of American Universities. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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Advocacy Day Registration to Open Later this Month

Early bird registration for COSSA’s 2020 Social Science Advocacy Day will begin in mid-December. COSSA members interested in taking advantage of our early bird pricing should sign up for COSSA’s members-only emails so they can be the first to know when registration is live. In the meantime, the hotel block for Advocacy Day is open for those ready to make their travel arrangements. Participants may reserve rooms in the block at $276 per night for the nights of March 29-31 at the Hilton Garden Inn Washington DC/U.S. Capitol (1225 First Street, NE), a nine-minute walk from our Advocacy Day training location and home base. Use this link when booking or book by phone using the group code C3 or Consortium of Social Science Associations.

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Members of Congress Request Feedback on Cures 2.0 Legislation

On November 22, Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI) released a statement detailing a vision for an updated version of the 21st Century Cures Act and calling for stakeholder input. The proposed legislation, colloquially known as “Cures 2.0,” would provide funding for research into cures for several life-threatening diseases. The Members will accept stakeholder comments until December 16. Information on how to submit comments can be found in the Members’ statement.

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House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Improving Science and Technology Advice for Congress

On December 5, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (SST) held a hearing to discuss options in improving the advice-giving infrastructure available to Members of Congress on science and technology issues. Members discussed recommendations from a recent National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) report on Science and Technology Policy Assessment as well as the possibility of reinstating the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which was dismantled in 1995. Witnesses present at the hearing included Director of Civil-Military Programs at the Stennis Center for Public Service Michael McCord, Director of the Technology and Public Purpose Project in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Laura Manley, Chief Scientist and Managing Director of Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics in the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Dr. Tim Persons, and Executive Director of the Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Dr. Peter Blair.

Committee Members questioned the witnesses on the findings of the NAPA report, the merits of reinstating OTA, technology assessment activities occurring at GAO, and other issues. While Members of both parties expressed interest in strengthening the quality of knowledge and tools available to Congress, the two parties disagreed on the method. Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and other Democrats supported a multi-lateral approach including reinstating and refunding OTA while Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) and other Republicans favored a consolidation of technology assessment into GAO along with other recommendations listed in the NAPA report.

The House Legislative Branch Appropriations report for FY 2020 includes $6 million for the re-establishment of OTA. However, the Senate version does not include this funding which makes the reinstatement of OTA unlikely to become law. A recording of the hearing and a statement from Chairwoman Johnson can be found on the SST website and the full NAPA report can be found on the NAPA website.

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OSTP Seeks Input on Research Environment

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has issued a request for information (RFI) on the research environment. Comments will be used to inform the work of the Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE), a committee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). JCORE was established in May 2019 and comprises four subcommittees: (1) Research Rigor and Integrity; (2) Coordinating Administrative Requirements for Research; (3) Research Security; and (4) Safe and Inclusive Research Environments (see previous coverage).

The request asks for information on actions that Federal agencies can take, working in partnership with private industry, academic institutions, and non-profit/philanthropic organizations, to maximize the quality and effectiveness of the American research environment across JCORE’s four main areas. More information on the specific questions JCORE is seeking feedback on are available in the Federal Register notice. Comments are due by 11:59 pm ET on December 23, 2019.

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Office of Evaluation Sciences Seeks 2020 Fellows

The Office of Evaluation Sciences (OES) at the General Services Administration is currently accepting applications for a yearlong fellowship beginning in fall 2020. OES is a team of applied researchers that work to build insights from the social and behavioral sciences into federal programs. OES designs, implements, and analyzes evidence-based interventions and randomized evaluations. Fellows shape their own high-impact portfolio of work, design and direct projects, and author academic publications. The deadline to submit applications is December 15. The full solicitation is available here and applications can be submitted by completing this form.

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