Issue 01 (January 7)


Sethuraman Panchanathan Nominated to Lead National Science Foundation

The White House announced on December 19 that President Trump intends to nominate Sethuraman Panchanathan to a six-year term as Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Current NSF Director France Córdova’s term ends in March. Panchanathan has been a member of the National Science Board since 2014 and leads “knowledge enterprise development” at Arizona State University (ASU). Panchanathan holds his doctorate in electrical and computer engineering and was central in founding the School of Computing and Informatics and the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing at ASU. Following Córdova’s retirement in March, Panchanathan’s nomination will require approval by the Senate.

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Early Bird Registration Open for 2020 Social Science Advocacy Day

Advocacy Day 2020 HeaderRegistration for Social Science Advocacy Day 2020 is now open. COSSA’s annual spring event will include a kickoff session featuring special guest speakers (to be announced in the coming weeks), a half-day of intensive context setting and advocacy preparation, COSSA’s annual Celebration of Social Science Rooftop Reception, and a full day of meetings on Capitol Hill.

COSSA members are encouraged to take advantage of our Early Bird discount and register by February 1 for only $75! Graduate and undergraduate students are eligible to register at a reduced rate of $25. Advocacy Day is open exclusively to individuals employed by or affiliated with COSSA member organizations. Individuals from non-member organizations can learn more about how their organization can join COSSA here.

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Still Time to Register for January’s Headlines Webchat

headlines bannerCOSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly COSSA Headlines webchat on Thursday January 9, in which COSSA staff will break down the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month, including how social science fared in the final fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending agreement, Trump’s new nominee to lead the National Science Foundation, and the launch of a pilot single-application portal for accessing restricted federal statistics. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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APA’s Office of International Affairs Answers “Why Social Science?”

why-social-scienceThe latest Why Social Science? guest post comes from Amanda Clinton, Senior Director of the Office of International Affairs at the American Psychological Association, who writes about how collaboration between professionals and across disciplines can lead to breakthroughs for our most complex problems. Read it here and subscribe.

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Congress Completes FY 2020 Appropriations Process; Read COSSA’s Analysis

In a final, year-end show of bipartisanship, Congress passed all of its FY 2020 appropriations bills last month. While still nearly three months late (FY 2020 began on October 1), completion of all 12 appropriations bills before the end of the calendar year is a welcomed departure from recent years that had some agencies not receiving their final budgets until well into the new year. This officially closes the books on FY 2020 and allows lawmakers to hit the ground running on FY 2021 funding when the new session starts this week.

The two funding packages (H.R. 1865 and H.R. 1158) together contain all 12 annual appropriations bills. In most cases, the final numbers tell a positive story for agencies and programs important to the social and behavioral sciences.

Read on for COSSA’s complete analysis of final FY 2020 funding for the agencies important to social science.

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Native American Language Reauthorization Bill Signed into Law

On December 20, the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act (S. 256) was signed into law. The legislation reauthorizes the Native American Languages Preservation and Maintenance grant program and the Esther Martinez Initiative grant program within the Department of Health and Human Services. Both programs support projects to preserve and revitalize Native languages in tribal communities. In addition to reauthorizing the two programs, the legislation increases the maximum possible duration of all Esther Martinez grants from three years to five years and decreases the required minimum number of enrollees in Native American language programs. The text of the bill can be read on and more information about the programs can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

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Senate Passes Bipartisan Resolution Supporting 2020 Census

In December, the Senate passed a bipartisan concurrent resolution (S.Con.Res. 31) in support of the 2020 Census. The resolution, introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), expresses the sense of Congress that it is the duty of the people of the United States to ensure the 2020 Census is as accurate as possible, that the government should inform the public about its importance, and that U.S. residents should plan to respond. COSSA was one of several dozen organizations to endorse the resolution, which now awaits passage by the House to ensure Congress speaks with one voice.

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White House Finalizes 2020 Data Strategy Action Plan

The White House has released its final 2020 Action Plan for the Federal Data Strategy (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The Federal Data Strategy, which is being coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is a “ten-year vision for how the Federal government will accelerate the use of data to support the foundations of democracy, deliver on mission, serve the public, and steward resources while protecting security, privacy and confidentiality.” The Strategy consists of 10 principles and 40 best practices to guide federal agencies on how to leverage the value of their data.

The next phase in the Strategy’s implementation is its first-year Action Plan, which details concrete steps to align existing efforts and establish a firm basis of tools, processes, and capacities to leverage data as a strategic asset. The action plan also incorporates several mandated actions from the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, which was signed into law in 2019. A draft plan was released over the summer and the final version was revised in response to feedback received (see the detailed description of changes made).

The steps planned for 2020 are organized into three categories—actions to be taken by agencies, actions to be taken by a specific agency or group of agencies related to a common topic, and government-wide data services and pilot projects.

Agency Actions

  • Action 1: Identify Data Needs to Answer Priority Agency Questions
  • Action 2: Institutionalize Agency Data Governance
  • Action 3: Assess Data and Related Infrastructure Maturity
  • Action 4: Identify Opportunities to Increase Staff Data Skills
  • Action 5: Identify Priority Data Assets for Agency Open Data Plans
  • Action 6: Publish and Update Data Inventories

Community of Practice Actions

  • Action 7: Launch a Federal Chief Data Officer Council
  • Action 8: Improve Data and Model Resources for AI Research and Development
  • Action 9: Improve Financial Management Data Standards
  • Action 10: Integrate Geospatial Data Practices into the Federal Data Enterprise

Shared Solution Actions

  • Action 11: Develop a Repository of Federal Enterprise Data Resources
  • Action 12: Create an OMB Federal Data Policy Committee
  • Action 13: Develop a Curated Data Skills Catalog
  • Action 14: Develop a Data Ethics Framework
  • Action 15: Develop a Data Protection Toolkit
  • Action 16: Pilot a One-stop Standard Research Application
  • Action 17: Pilot an Automated Tool for Information Collection Reviews that Supports Data Inventory Creation and Updates
  • Action 18: Pilot Enhanced Data Management Tool for Federal Agencies
  • Action 19: Develop Data Quality Measuring and Reporting Guidance
  • Action 20: Develop a Data Standards Repository

The Strategy outlines a series of milestones, measurements, target dates, and responsible entities for each action. The full action plan is available on the data strategy website. COSSA will continue to report on the activities related to the Data Strategy as the actions are implemented and the next year’s action plan is developed.

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National Institute of Mental Health Requests Information on Draft 2020 Strategic Plan

In December 2019, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) within the National Institutes of Health released a Request for Information (RFI) soliciting public feedback on its draft Strategic Plan for Research. NIMH publishes a strategic plan for research every five years with updates to the Institute’s stated research priorities. The deadline to submit feedback has been extended to January 15, 2020. The draft of the strategic plan and more information can be found on the NIH website.

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NSF Releases Dear Colleague Letter on Social Science Perspectives on Graduate Education

On December 16, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague Letter, signed by the Assistant Directors for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) and the Education and Human Resources Directorate (EHR), to draw the attention of the social science community to funding opportunities in the two directorates related to research in graduate education. The letter (NSF 20-030) follows a workshop and report from the National Academies of Sciences on Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century and a workshop on Graduate Training in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Funding opportunities include research grants, traineeships, and capacity grants intended to identify innovative approaches to transform graduate education. More information can be found on the NSF website.

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NIH Seeking Comments on Inclusion Across the Lifespan II Workshop

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a Request for Information (RFI) seeking stakeholder input on a planned workshop on Inclusion Across the Lifespan, a policy intended to encourage inclusion of underrepresented participants in clinical studies. The Inclusion Across the Lifespan II Workshop is a follow-up to a 2017 workshop mandated by Congress in the 21st Century Cures Act. Comments will remain open until February 15, 2020. More information can be found in the NIH guide notice.

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ICPSR Launches Pilot Tool to Streamline Access to Restricted Federal Data

In December, ICPSR at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research released a new tool to simplify the application process for accessing restricted microdata from principal statistical agencies. ResearchDataGov gives researchers access to a single portal and a standard application to access restricted data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census Bureau, National Center for Health Statistics, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. More federal data sources are expected to be added as the pilot moves forward.

The project is supported by funding from the Census Bureau under the direction of the White House Office of Management and Budget. It was created thanks to a requirement in the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, which required that the government simplify the application process for external researchers to access federal data (see COSSA’s previous coverage). More details can be found on the ICSPSR website.

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