Issue 02 (January 21)


HOT TOPIC: Foreign Interference in the U.S. Research Enterprise & Policy Responses

COSSA has released the latest edition of our HOT TOPIC series, which are featured articles prepared by COSSA staff members offering insights into timely issues important to the social and behavioral science community. This edition, titled Foreign Interference in the U.S. Research Enterprise & Policy Responses, was written by Ben Goodrich.

In recent years, United States federal research agencies have faced growing concerns of reports of U.S. research and intellectual property being stolen, illegally transferred, or tampered with by foreign governments, notably the Chinese government. These agencies have employed a variety of methods to protect research from foreign interference, including commissioning reports for policy recommendations, requesting information from the research community on potential bad actors, issuing clarifying statements on the federal grant application process, and tightening regulations on various parts of the research infrastructure.

However, some of these policies—which affect universities and researchers from all disciplines—have been criticized both for creating a chilling effect on the open and collaborative nature of the research community and for unjustly singling out researchers of Chinese descent.

This analysis details the latest threats of foreign influence on the U.S. research enterprise as well as actions taken across the federal government to address them. As this is a developing story with agencies continuing to develop policies in response, COSSA will be closely monitoring efforts to harmonize agency policies, address concerns of racial bias against Chinese scientists, and protect the open nature of the U.S. research enterprise.

Read on for the full analysis.

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COSSA Sends Letter in Support of Panchanathan Nomination to Lead NSF

On January 21, COSSA submitted a letter to leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in support of the nomination of Sethuraman Panchanathan to be the next Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) (see previous coverage). The letter notes that “Dr. Panchanathan has a strong and clear vision on the role of research and innovation in ensuring our nation’s leadership in the global economy, and we are pleased to lend our collective voices in support of his nomination.”

Panchanathan was nominated in December for a six-year term following the upcoming retirement of current NSF Director France Cordova in March.

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Impeachment, Natural Disasters and Elections Signal Difficult Road Ahead for FY 2021 Appropriations

The second session of the 116th Congress kicked off earlier this month, and while the new year did not begin with a historically-long government shutdown as it did in 2019, Congress still faces a myriad of challenges to completing spending bills for the coming fiscal year. The Senate is expected to begin the impeachment trial of President Trump on January 21, which will fully occupy the Senate’s time, leaving significant legislative debates until after the trial concludes, which could be several weeks. While the House has finished its impeachment business, a backlog of work remains for the lower chamber, including passing disaster funding for earthquake-stricken Puerto Rico.

Another hurdle to finishing spending decisions on time is the 2020 general election. The majorities in both the House and Senate are at stake and leadership in both chambers have included significant amounts of recess time into their 2020 schedules, ensuring facetime with constituents but leaving less time to legislate. Despite the many challenges that lie ahead, Congressional leaders have continued to express interest in completing fiscal year (FY) 2021 spending bills before the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

Continue to follow the COSSA Washington Update for news on FY 2021. If you are a COSSA member, you can hear further analysis on what challenges and opportunities COSSA anticipates in the coming year in the recording of January’s COSSA Headlines.

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OSTP Requests Feedback on Data Repositories and Data Sharing

The While House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a Request for Public Comment on January 17 on Draft Desirable Characteristics of Repositories for Managing and Sharing Data Resulting from Federally Funded Research. The request, published in the Federal Register, was issued on behalf of the multi-agency Subcommittee on Open Science of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Science. The proposed set of desirable characteristics are intended to improve the consistency of information that federal agencies provide to the scientific community about the long-term preservation of data resulting from federally funded research.

The Subcommittee on Open Science will use the feedback to develop a common set of characteristics that federal research funding agencies can use to improve the management and sharing of data from federally funded research. Comments are due by March 6, 2020. The full Request for Comment can be read in the Federal Register.

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2020 Census Count Begins in Rural Alaska

The U.S. Census Bureau starts counting the population of rural Alaska for the 2020 Census on January 21 in the remote Alaskan village of Toksook Bay. The decennial Census traditionally begins counting the populations in remote Alaskan villages much earlier than the official Census Day due to the hard-to-count nature of the region. The count of the rest of the U.S. population will officially start on Census Day, April 1. More information about the timeline of the 2020 Census can be found on the 2020 Census website.

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SAGE Awards Inaugural Impact Writing Prize to Social and Behavioral Scientists

SAGE Publishing, a COSSA affiliate member, has announced the winners of its inaugural Impact in Action Writing Prize. Administered through its online platform Social Science Space, the award is given to researchers who effectively communicate through writing how social and behavioral science research leaves an impact in non-academic spaces.

The recipients of the 2019 Impact in Action Writing Prize are:

  • Cheryl Durwin & Dina Moore from Southern Connecticut State University
  • Lynn Thigpen from the Wisdom Project
  • Maria Kreuzer from the International University of Monaco
  • Ian Male & William Farr from the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) Trust

Submissions for the award were judged on four criteria: the quality of the research, the impact of the research, the applicability of the research, and the writing quality of the submissions. The winners receive a cash prize and their submissions will be published on the Social Science Space website.

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