Issue 21 (October 27)
New from COSSA
- CJRA, COSSA Host “Ask a Criminologist” Briefing Addressing Policing and Community Relations
- “Why Social Science?” Looks at Women and Political Ambition
Executive Branch News
- White House to Weaken Protections for Civil Servants through “Schedule F” Classification
- NSF Seeks Input on Future Convergence Accelerator Topics, Midscale STEM Education Infrastructure
Science Community News
- AAAS Forum Focuses on COVID Impacts, Systemic Racism in Science
- Research!America Requesting Proposals for 2020-2021 Microgrants
- CNSF Hosts Congressional Briefing on Undergraduate Learning During COVID-19
Resources & Opportunities
The American Sociological Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member, held a webinar on October 20 to respond to recent White House actions prohibiting trainings and other activities that touch on white privilege, structural inequality, and other supposedly “divisive” concepts (see previous coverage). The webinar “Sociology Speaks: Experts Explain the Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping” featured three sociologists, Karyn Lacy of the University of Michigan, Bandana Purkayastha of the University of Connecticut, and Shelley Correll of Stanford University, who corrected the misrepresentations of these concepts in the orders and memoranda and explained how they have contributed to a better understanding of power and prejudice. A recording of the webcast is available on ASA’s website.
On October 22, COSSA, in partnership with the Crime & Justice Research Alliance (CJRA), hosted the latest in an ongoing series of “Ask a Criminologist” briefings, which seek to connect leading criminologists to policy makers to address prevalent criminal justice issues. The event, which focused on issues related to policing and community relations in the wake of recent protests, featured Dr. Jennifer Cobbina, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University; Dr. Rod Brunson, Thomas O’Neill Chair of Criminology at Northeastern University; and Dr. Everette Penn, Professor of Criminal Justice at University of Houston Clear Lake and founder of the Teen and Public Service Center. The panel was moderated by Dr. William V. Pelfrey, Jr., Professor of Criminal Justice in the Wilder School at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The briefing featured unique perspectives from each of the panelists, with each holding a different stance on recent calls for police reform. Topics of discussion included the policy implications and merits of calls to “defund the police,” the systemic factors affecting the Black community’s relationship with police departments, the role of the Black Lives Matter movement in shifting the discourse surrounding police reform, disparities in policing practices between high-income and low-income communities, and police training and community engagement initiatives such as the Teen and Police Service (TAPS) Academy. The full briefing is available on YouTube on the Virginia Commonwealth University Wilder School’s channel.
The latest Why Social Science? guest post comes from the authors of Why Don’t Women Rule the World? Understanding Women’s Civic and Political Choices, who write about the obstacles facing women with political ambitions and research-backed strategies to overcome them. Read it here and subscribe.
On October 13, the Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing the Department of Commerce to end its 2020 Census field operations early (see COSSA’s previous coverage for the complete back-and-forth on the end date). However, while the enumeration efforts have ended, the Census Bureau now moves to critical data processing and quality-checking work to ensure that the final counts submitted for redistricting and reapportionment purposes are accurate. The timeline for this essential work is significantly compressed compared to both the Bureau’s original 2020 Census operating plan and the Administration’s COVID-19-adjusted plan. Congress can act to move statutory deadlines and instruct the Bureau to take adequate time to complete these activities. However, with Congress off on the campaign trail, we would not expect to see action on this until the lame duck session after the election. You can stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage of the 2020 Census here.
On October 21, President Trump issued an Executive Order on Creating Schedule F in the Excepted Service, a move that elicited wide criticisms from federal employee organizations. The executive order would create a new classification of federal employee, Schedule F, and defines this class of employee as those in “positions of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character that are not normally subject to change as a result of a Presidential transition.” Furthermore, heads of executive agencies would be given the power to determine which Federal positions are covered by Schedule F upon approval by the White House Office of Personnel Management (OPM). These changes would effectively allow a Presidential Administration to more easily hire and fire Schedule F employees as if they were political appointees and prohibits Schedule F employees from participating in practices prohibited for the exempted service such as collective bargaining.
Federal employee associations have denounced the executive order as a danger to the independent nature of federal service. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) released a statement that the executive order “threatens the centuries-long integrity of nonpartisan professionals by forming a broad exception to the competitive civil service. The new exception demolishes the rule that civil servants are hired and fired based on merit, not political affiliation.”
The executive order gives heads of executive agencies ninety days to compile a list of positions subject to reclassification under Schedule F (a deadline that ends on January 19, the day before Inauguration Day). Members of Congress are reportedly looking into legislative options for reversing the order. In addition, as the rule could potentially be reversed by a change in Presidential administration, COSSA will continue to monitor the implementation of this executive order through the rest of the current presidential term.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a request for information (RFI) on future topics for the NSF Convergence Accelerator. The Convergence Accelerator is a capability within NSF to accelerate use-inspired convergence research in areas of national importance via partnerships between academic and non-academic stakeholders. The Convergence Accelerator is entering its third funding cycle and has previously featured tracks related to NSF’s Industries of the Future (IotF) initiative and Big Ideas related to Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF), Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR), Quantum Leap (QL). The RFI is seeking ideas for new topics that build upon use-inspired foundational research aligned to IotF, NSF’s Big Ideas, or other research in areas of national importance. However, topics selected for previous Convergence Accelerator program tracks are likely to be a low priority. NSF is seeking responses to this RFI by November 9, 2020. More information can be found in NSF’s Dear Colleague Letter. More information about the Convergence Accelerator can be found on the NSF’s website.
Separately, NSF’s Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate is seeking public input on identifying mid-scale infrastructure needs for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education research and will be holding a virtual listening session on October 30. More details including registration information are available in the event invitation.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) held its annual Science & Technology Policy Forum in a virtual format on October 13-14. The forum featured two days of panels and lectures focused on pressing policy issues facing the sciences. The majority of the first day’s sessions focused on how COVID-19 has impacted science and innovation, the essential role science has played in responding to the pandemic, and lessons that can be drawn from this experience to strengthen the science and technology enterprise going forward. The second day featured a number of sessions on confronting the dark history of racism in science as well as present inequities that continue to persist for people of color working in the sciences. Presenters identified ways the scientific community can move forward to earn back lost trust and to make the scientific enterprise a more equitable endeavor. More information on the sessions is available on the AAAS website, where recordings will be posted.
Research!America has announced that it is accepting proposals from graduate and postdoctoral-led science policy groups for the 2020-2021 round of microgrants funding projects connecting scientists with public policy experts. These grants aim to support early-career scientists with funding for civic science projects including virtual events, podcasts, data visualization projects, and startup funding. One microgrant track, the Science Meets Science track, pairs social scientists with scientists from other fields to fund interdisciplinary civic science projects. All early-career scientists selected for the microgrant program will have access to various science policy resources including webinar trainings, a formal science policy course, and participation in a science advocacy forum. Proposals for microgrants are due November 9. More information is available on the Research!America website.
On October 22, the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), of which COSSA is a member, hosted a virtual briefing for Congressional staffers on undergraduate learning during COVID-19 and how funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) can address gaps in learning. The briefing featured presentations from Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at North Carolina A&T State University Adrienne Aiken Morgan and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Digital Innovation and Enterprise Learning at Northeastern University Kemi Jona. In addition, brief remarks were offered by Representatives G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and Katherine Clark (D-CA). The briefing was moderated by Associate Executive Director of the American Mathematical Society Karen Saxe.
The presentations covered a wide range of relevant issues including the transition of education to remote learning, the importance of virtual internships, differences in equity and access for those seeking virtual internships, lessons learned from the current pandemic that can impact future crises, the role of mental health in affecting learning ability, and how remote learning affects historically Black colleges and universities differently than other institutions. In addition, the presenters highlighted social science as especially useful in informing policy changes to improve learning behaviors. A recording of the briefing will be posted by CNSF when available.