Issue 25 (December 22)
NIH Releases Report on COVID-19 Vaccine Communication
A panel of social and behavioral scientists coordinated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released a report titled “COVID-19 Vaccination Communication: Applying Behavioral and Social Science to Address Vaccine Hesitancy and Foster Vaccine Confidence.” The report, led by the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), outlines research-based strategies to communicate the importance of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine while addressing the challenges of vaccine hesitancy and misinformation. The strategies laid out in this report are largely based on the fundamentals of communication research while including specific considerations for individuals at highest risk of contracting the virus such as healthcare workers and older adults.
Some of the strategies included in the report are:
- Using accurate and transparent messaging without exaggeration;
- Provoking positive emotions rather than negative emotions in messaging;
- Corresponding through trusted sources of information to the target audience;
- Framing vaccination as a social norm;
- Reaching out early to those that are hesitant about vaccines to help form their views; and
- Build trust slowly with those who mistrust vaccines through compassion and empathy with the goal to encourage vaccinations in the future.
The report is available on the OBSSR website.
Congress Passes Final FY 2021 Funding, COVID Relief, Closing the Books on an Extraordinary Year
After weeks of tense negotiations, Congressional leaders reached an agreement on a coronavirus aid package and legislation to fund the government through the end of fiscal year (FY) 2021. The appropriations agreement largely provides flat funding or modest increases to social science agencies, unsurprising given the strains placed on the federal budget by the pandemic. COSSA will release a full analysis of the funding bills for social science agencies later this week. In the meantime, top-line funding for agencies important to the social and behavioral sciences are provided in the chart below. COSSA’s complete coverage of FY 2021 funding can be found here.
The $900 billion COVID relief package includes direct payments for individuals meeting certain income thresholds, extension of unemployment benefits, support for small business through the Paycheck Protection Program, among many other priorities. Notable for the social science community is $22.7 billion for the Higher Education Relief Emergency fund to help universities defray the costs associated with the pandemic and provide financial assistance to students. In addition, the bill includes $28 million for use through FY 2022 to support pandemic-related costs related to administering the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). NAEP has been postponed amid the educational upheaval caused by the pandemic.
Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the agreement provides $8.75 billion in supplemental funding for the CDC for use through FY 2024 to “plan, prepare for, promote, distribute, administer, monitor, and track coronavirus vaccines to ensure broad-based distribution, access, and vaccine coverage.” The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is to receive $1.25 billion for use through FY 2024 to support research and clinical trials related to the long-term effects of COVID-19, as well as continued support for expanding and improving COVID-19 testing.
Evidence Building Advisory Committee Seeks Input
The Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building, which was established by the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (“Evidence Act,” see previous coverage) has issued a general solicitation of comments from the public to inform its work. The request includes a set of ten questions that cover core issues like:
- “Capacity needs for secure data access and record linkage
- Areas for research and development on state-of-the-art data access and data protection methods
- How to protect privacy when using personally identifiable information or confidential business information in support of evidence building
- How to promote transparency and facilitate public engagement with the evidence building process
- Agency needs for data management and data stewardship services
- How to best facilitate the needs of researchers, evaluators, and other evidence builders through a national data service or similar approach.”
Comments are sought by February 9, 2021. Full details are available in the Federal Register notice.
NSF Seeking Interdisciplinary Project Ideas on Understanding the Brain
On December 14, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague Letter requesting suggestions for potential interdisciplinary projects on brain research. In the letter, NSF states that these submissions should shed light on untapped research areas that may depend on collaboration between neuroscience and other fields such as behavioral science which may lead to future funding opportunities. The letter asks for input on recent scientific advances in the brain sciences that impact multiple disciplines as well as the perspectives needed to pursue research opportunities more effectively. A survey collecting submissions is available on the NSF website.
National Academies Releases Resource on Communicating Newsworthy Social and Behavioral Science
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) have released a digital resource on how to communicate newsworthy social and behavioral science. The resource offers insights and strategies on a variety of communication topics including the concept of newsworthiness, differences of background between journalists and scientists, common challenges facing the media in reporting on science, and suggestions for scientists and journalists to consider when choosing to communicate science. The information imparted in the resource includes segments recorded from a Roundtable on Communication and Use of Social and Behavioral Science along with short checklists and testimonials from the roundtable’s panelists. The resource can be found on the National Academies’ website.
Editor’s Note: Update Returns January 5
This is our final issue of the COSSA Washington Update of 2020. Late-breaking news and analysis will be shared with COSSA members subscribed to our members-only emails. We will resume our ongoing coverage of policy developments affecting the social and behavioral sciences on January 5. The COSSA team is especially grateful to all of our members this year for their continued support and engagement amidst incredibly difficult circumstances. We wish all of our readers happy holidays and hope for a better 2021!