Issue 08 (April 14)


Congress Split on Content, Timing of Next Supplemental

Congress left town in late March upon passage of its third COVID-19 supplemental appropriations bill (see COSSA’s coverage) with no set timeline for return. Many are still speculating about what a fourth coronavirus supplemental bill might contain. Republicans are interested in a package focused on relief for small businesses and an infusion of cash for the Small Business Administration, while Democrats are seeking additional resources for hospitals, food stamp benefits, testing, and protective gear for frontline workers. The research and higher education communities, too, have been developing proposals for Congressional consideration. On April 7, four higher education associations sent a letter to House and Senate leadership calling for $26 billion in additional appropriations to federal research agencies’ extramural research programs to “cover requests for research grant and contract supplements due to COVID-19 related impacts,” provide financial relief to “research support personnel,” and fund additional graduate student and postdoc fellowships. Read the full letter for additional recommendations from the higher education community.

Earlier this month, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee issued a request for input on ideas for research, development, and innovation funding and policies that should be considered in a future COVID-19 relief bill. COSSA submitted a response on April 13.

Stay tuned to COSSA’s COVID-19 Resources page for latest developments.

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Census Bureau to Add COVID-19 Questions to Business Surveys, Request Additional Time for Decennial

The Census Bureau has been granted emergency authorization from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to add questions related to COVID-19 to its business surveys. Questions to measure the impact of the pandemic will be added to five surveys: the Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories & Orders (M3) Survey; the Building Permits Survey; the Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey; the Monthly Retail Surveys; and the Quarterly Services Survey. The Census Bureau will be asking businesses whether they have temporarily closed any locations for at least one day, whether they experienced delays in their supply chains or product shipments, and whether those delays impacted revenue. In addition, the Building Permits Survey will ask permit offices whether they were unable to issue permits due to COVID-19-related disruptions, whether such disruptions created a permit backlog, and whether backlogs were cleared. In its justification to OMB, the Census Bureau said: “The added questions are designed to allow us to measure the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic upon businesses.  As Primary Economic Indicators, each of these surveys produce timely and closely-watched statistics about the health of the U.S. economy.  Given the importance of these indicator surveys and of the statistics they produce, it is imperative we measure to what extent businesses have been impacted in terms of their ability to maintain operations during this turbulent period.” The details of the request can be found on OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs website.

In addition, the Census Bureau announced that it plans to ask Congress for extra time to produce final apportionment counts for the 2020 Census. Should Congress grant the requested 120-day extension, the Bureau will extend the window for field data collection and self-response to October 31, 2020, which will allow for apportionment counts to be produced by April 30, 2021 and redistricting data by July 31, 2021. In the meantime, the Census Bureau is undertaking preparations to reopen field offices as early as June 1.

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OHRP Issues Guidance on Human Subjects Protections for Coronavirus Actions

The Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP) within the Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance for institutions and investigators conducting research in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance covers the following topics: (1) Public Health and Clinical Activities; (2) Excluded Public Health Surveillance Activities; (3) Legally Required Reporting; (4) Research Changes to Eliminate Apparent Immediate Hazards; (5) Proposing and Reviewing Study Changes; and, (6) Whether Suspensions of Research Must be Reported.  The guidance document can be accessed at on OHRP’s website.

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NIMHD Seeking Research Proposals on the Impact of the COVID-19 Outbreak on Minority Health and Health Disparities

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a Notice of Special Interest soliciting research proposals that aim to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting minority health and health disparities. In particular, the institute is interested in understanding how state and local public health policies affect health disparities, the role protective interventions may have in mitigating health disparities that COVID-19 may cause, and how behavioral or biological mechanisms may contribute to the spread of COVID-19. This notice is one of many coming out of the institutes and centers at NIH as the agency has been tapped by Congress in the COVID-19 stimulus bills to focus on research addressing the ongoing  pandemic (read COSSA’s analysis for more details).

Applications for this notice are due May 1, 2020. More information can be found on the NIH website.

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National Academies Begins Series of Virtual Discussions on the Research Community’s Responses to COVID-19

On April 9, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Board on Higher Education and Workforce (BHEW) hosted the first event in a new virtual series discussing post-secondary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion series, which will take place over the course of several weeks, will bring together leaders from academia, industry, government, and civil society to address new developments in COVID-19 responses in different sectors of the research community. Each virtual event will touch on a specific topic on how researchers and their institutions can help support public health efforts.

The April 9 event, which focused on how researchers help the national response efforts, featured a panel discussion among Lisa Hirshhorn, Professor of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University; Michael Wells, Fellow at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University and creator of the COVID-19 National Scientist Volunteer Database; Amy McDermott, science journalist for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Matthew Golden, Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington and Director of the Public Health Seattle King County HIV/STD program. Topics brought up during the discussion included the role of scientists as communicators to policymakers and health care professionals, barriers to COVID-19 research and what to be done to mitigate them, the curation of the COVID-19 National Scientist Volunteer Database, and long-term strategies for mobilizing scientists against COVID-19.

Future events in the discussion series will focus on topics such as how labs can shift research agendas, how scientists can be crowd-sourced to improve public information, how to provide faster policy advice, how to volunteer for the response effort, the implications of the global nature of the pandemic, and possible long term implications of postsecondary responses to the pandemic. More details about each event in the series and recordings of previous series discussions are available on the NASEM Eventbrite page.

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OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier Named Acting NSF Director

Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), has been named the acting director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) until the Senate confirms a permanent successor to the previous NSF Director, France Córdova. Córdova finished her six-year term heading the agency in March 2020 (see previous COSSA coverage for more details). The White House announced the nomination of Sethuraman Panchanathan as NSF Director in January 2020, however the timeline for the Senate to consider Panchanathan’s nomination has been made unclear by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to his tenure as OSTP Director, Droegemeier served two terms on the National Science Board, the governing body for NSF, and nearly a decade as vice president for research for the University of Oklahoma. The news release can be found on the NSF website.

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AAAS Accepting Nominations for 2021 Awards & Prizes

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has announced that the nominations process for several of its 2021 awards and prizes will open on April 15, 2020. The annual AAAS awards and prizes, which are announced at the AAAS Annual Meeting, recognize significant contributors to science and the public’s understanding of science.

The awards and prizes that will accept nominations include:

Award nominations for most awards will be accepted through June 30, 2020 except when noted. More details about each award and application information are available on the AAAS website.

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