Issue 05 (March 2)


House Passes Funding for NSF, Higher Ed, and IES in $1.9 trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill

The House of Representatives passed a massive relief bill on February 27 that aims to bring financial support to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (H.R. 1319, committee report) includes direct payments to individuals, expansion of unemployment assistance, and an increase to the national minimum wage, among many other provisions. It also includes several notable provisions of interest to the science community, including $39.9 billion in funding for colleges and universities, with half to be used for student aid, as laid out in the CARES Act (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The bill also includes $100 million for the Institute of Education Sciences for research related to addressing learning loss caused by the coronavirus among K-12 students.

In addition, the National Science Foundation would receive $600 million “to fund or extend new and existing research grants, cooperative agreements, scholarships, fellowships, and apprenticeships, and related administrative expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” While not included in the original bill text, this funding was added as part of the manager’s amendment that was passed on the House floor. This funding, if enacted, could only be used for research about the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill does not provide any any relief for scientists whose research on other topics has been disrupted. The bipartisan RISE Act (see previous coverage), should it become law, would provide NSF with $3 billion to support non-COVID-related research impacted by the pandemic.

Senate leadership is now working on its own version of the legislation, which is expected to be voted on the coming days. While some of the larger provisions may change, such as the minimum wage increase, the research and higher education relief funding discussed above is expected to be maintained in the Senate bill. COSSA will continue to report on the progress of this legislation as it nears passage.

Advocacy Day Sponsorship Opportunities Available

Sponsorship opportunities for COSSA’s virtual 2021 Social Science Advocacy Day are now available. COSSA has made a variety of sponsorship packages this year, including the ability to get up to four free Advocacy Day registrations. Advocacy Day sponsors allow COSSA to dramatically lower the registration cost for participants compared to previous years, while providing your organization with additional visibility among colleagues in the social and behavioral science and higher education communities. More information on sponsorship packages is available here. Interested organizations should contact Wendy Naus at

February Headlines to Feature Deep Dive on Pandemic Relief for Researchers

headlines bannerCOSSA members are invited to register for the monthly Headlines webchat on Thursday, March 11 at 2:00 pm Eastern Time. The COSSA team will break down the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month, followed by a deep dive discussion on current legislative proposals to provide relief to scholars whose research has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

March Headlines to Feature Deep Dive on Pandemic Relief for Researchers

headlines bannerCOSSA members are invited to register for the monthly Headlines webchat on Thursday, March 11 at 2:00 pm Eastern Time. The COSSA team will break down the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month, followed by a deep dive discussion on current legislative proposals to provide relief to scholars whose research has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

Why Social Science? Celebrates Anthropology Day

why-social-scienceThe latest Why Social Science? post highlights Anthropology Day, which the American Anthropological Association (AAA) celebrates every February. Anthropology Day is a day for anthropologists to celebrate and share their discipline with the public around them. Read it here and subscribe.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Economic Recovery Legislation Enacted; Science Fares Very Well (February 23, 2009)

In celebration of COSSA’s 40th anniversary, we are diving into the decades of Washington Update archives to share articles from years past that resonate with today’s news.

On February 17, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka the Stimulus Package). After weeks of negotiations among the White House, the Congress, and three key Republican Senators, the legislation emerged with the hope that it will help the American economy recuperate from its current illness. Within its many provisions are significant amounts of funding for science activities.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will receive $3 billion. This is the number from the House version and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) advocated strongly on behalf of NSF to her Senate colleagues, who wanted NSF to get only $1.4 billion. […] With Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) as one of the three Senators key to the enactment of the package, it is no surprise that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) became one of the big winners in the legislation. Specter ensured the inclusion of $10 billion for NIH.[…]

Read more from this issue.

House Science Committee Organizes

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has announced its membership roster for the 117th Congress (see the majority and minority press releases). As previously reported, the Chair and Ranking Member will again be Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK). Members new to the Science Committee this Congress include Carlos Giménez (R-FL), Stephanie Bice (R-OK), Randy Feenstra (R-IA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Young Kim (R-CA), Jake LaTurner (R-KS), Peter Meijer (R-MI), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Jay Obernolte (R-CA), Deborah K. Ross (D-NC), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Daniel Webster (R-FL), and Susan Wild (D-PA). Democratic subcommittee leadership is largely unchanged from the 116th Congress, with the exception of Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) helming the Subcommittee on Energy and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) leading the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee. On the Republican side, Rep. Bice will serve as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Environment, Rep. Obernolte will serve as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, and Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) will be the Ranking Member on the Research and Technology Subcommittee. The full Science Committee roster is available on the Science Committee website.

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on COVID-19 Impacts and the Recovery of the U.S. Research Enterprise

On February 25, the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology (SST) held a hearing on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on U.S. research and potential solutions to provide relief and recovery to the research enterprise. The hearing featured testimony from CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Dr. Sudip Parikh, Vice President for Research at Washington State University Dr. Christopher Keane, Executive Vice President of the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Thomas Quaadman, and Executive Director of the American Educational Research Association and member of COSSA’s Board of Directors Dr. Felice Levine. The hearing was presided over by SST Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK).

The Committee members questioned the witnesses on a variety of issues related to the public health emergency surrounding COVID-19 and how it is affecting the U.S. research enterprise. Members posed questions related to the stagnation of U.S. research investment per capita, the future of U.S. leadership in science on the international stage, inequities among women and racial minorities in research, the career development for young people in science and technology, the importance of public-private partnerships in coordinating the research enterprise, and the need for funding to jumpstart research that has slowed due to the pandemic.

A major topic of discussion was the prospect of passing the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (H.R. 869), which would authorize $25 billion across several research agencies to offset costs related to lost research productivity due to the pandemic. Each of the panelists voiced support for the passage of the RISE Act, with many Democratic members of the Committee echoing this support. Support for the legislation was also expressed by some of the Republican members of the Committee, including Ranking Member Lucas, although concerns were raised about perceived partisanship in the drafting of the bill and reluctance to spend money for research while institutions are partially closed.

Of note, Dr. Levine advocated for the passage of the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act (H.R. 144) to help offset lost human capital in research. Dr. Levine also highlighted the role of the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as well as the role of the social and behavioral sciences in identifying ways to bolster the scientific workforce in the aftermath of COVID-19 and for future generations.

Chairwoman Johnson’s opening statement, the witnesses’ testimonies, and a recording of the hearing are available on the SST Committee website.

House Science Committee Holds Hearing On COVID-19 Vaccines and Encouraging Uptake

On February 19, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing on “The Science of COVID-19 Vaccines and Encouraging Vaccine Uptake.” The Committee heard testimony from Professor in Vaccinology and Director at the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, Director and Health Authority at the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Philip Huang, Deputy Commissioner at the Oklahoma State Department of Health Keith Reed, and the Scientific Director at the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics and Associate Professor of Nursing and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing Dr. Alison Buttenheim. The hearing was overseen by Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK).

Throughout the hearing, varying were views expressed over whether supply or demand of vaccines should be the focus. Dr. Huang reminded the Committee that vaccine hesitancy remains an issue, and Dr. Neuzil advocated for more investment into social science research for a better understanding of vaccine hesitancy. Dr. Buttenheim and Dr. Huang both advocated for removing logistical hurdles preventing citizens from getting discouraged by protocols. The witnesses also criticized the framing of “Operation Warp Speed,” the government’s vaccine development and distribution initiative, as a potential contributor to public fear of the speed of vaccine development. They also cautioned against proposing incentives for vaccination, on the grounds that it would send the wrong message around vaccines.

There was also discussion around differences between the several versions of the vaccine and how citizens could be overwhelmed by choosing which vaccine to take. Dr. Buttenheim advocated for reducing the cognitive load for citizens by bringing all authorized COVID-19 vaccines under one label like influenza vaccines. Two Committee members, Mike Garcia (R-CA) and Randy Weber (R-TX), raised concerns over this approach—Garcia agreed with the science behind the reasoning, but believed this could do more harm than good in the long-term. Every witness agreed that communication coming from local and trusted medical leaders must be clear and consistent to allow diverse strategies that best serve the populations equitably and build long-term confidence. Dr. Buttenheim laid out specific strategies in her written testimony. The hearing is available on the Committee on Science, Space, & Technology’s website.

This article was contributed by Nicholas Lynn, COSSA’s spring intern.

NIH Presents Report on Racism in Science, Launches UNITE Initiative to End Structural Racism in Biomedical Research

During a meeting of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) on February 26, 2021, NIH discussed new and ongoing efforts to eliminate agency structures perpetuating racism in the biomedical research enterprise. During the meeting, the ACD’s Working Group on Diversity (WGD) presented its Report on Racism in Science, a document that had been in development throughout the past year in the wake of nationwide protests condemning White supremacy and racial inequity, especially as it affects Black members of the scientific community. The WGD report presents several strategies and recommendations for the ACD to consider in addressing racism in science, organized into the four following themes:

  • Acknowledge racism and inequity & provide support to Black members of the scientific community
  • Conduct research to understand systemic racism in research studies and the scientific workforce
  • Monitor acts of racial bias and change the culture surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Make structural changes to mitigate the impact of racism and implicit bias in the scientific workforce

Although there was hesitation from some ACD members about the emphasis on racism against Black scientists instead of all under-represented groups in science, the findings and recommendations of the report were met with wide praise by the ACD. The report is available on the ACD website.

In addition to the WGD report, one new NIH effort discussed at length during the meeting was the establishment of the UNITE Initiative, a series of committees with membership across the NIH’s institutes and centers charged with addressing structural racism within NIH-supported science and identifying opportunities and recommendations to improve agency practices. The UNITE Initiative consists of five committees each aiming to address one of the following objectives:

  • U – Understanding stakeholder experiences through listening and learning
  • N – New research on health disparities, minority health, and health equity
  • I – Improving the NIH culture and structure for equity, inclusion, and excellence
  • T – Transparency, communication, and accountability with NIH’s internal and external stakeholders
  • E – Extramural research ecosystem: changing policy, culture, and structure to promote workforce diversity

Aligning with the stated objectives of the WGD report and the UNITE Initiative, NIH has released a request for information (RFI) seeking stakeholder input on NIH approaches to advance racial equity, diversity, and inclusion in the biomedical research enterprise and expand research on health disparities. Comments may address aspects of the biomedical workforce, policies and partnerships at NIH, significant gaps in research areas, or any additional suggestions for the NIH to consider. Comments are due April 9, 2021 on the NIH submission website.

A recording of the ACD meeting is available on the NIH website.

National Academies Seeking Applications for 2021 Cohort of New Voices Initiative

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has announced the opening of the 2021 application cycle for the New Voices initiative, a two-year program giving leadership opportunities to a diverse group of mid-career experts to collaborate and develop interdisciplinary solutions to complex problems being addressed by the National Academies. The New Voices initiative is open to U.S-based scientists, engineers, health professionals, and other experts from all professional sectors including industry, academia, non-profits, and the public sector. Applications are due March 31, 2021 and are available on the NASEM website. More information about the New Voices initiative is also available on the NASEM website.

Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Ed Launches Partner Network

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education has launched a new Partner Network to include a range of higher education-focused organizations in sharing their work to prevent and address sexual harassment in higher education. The Collaborative was created in 2019 to facilitate the work of higher education institutions in developing and implementing efforts that move beyond basic legal compliance to evidence-based policies and practices for preventing sexual harassment. Sixty colleges, universities, and research institutions are currently members. The Partner Network was created to engage other types of organizations in the work of the Collaborative with an inaugural group of 13 organizations. More information about the Collaborative, including how to join the Partner Network is available on its website.

New Guidance Advises Communities on Planning for Natural Disasters During COVID-19

The Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN), a project of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), has released a new set of guidance on Emergency Evacuation and Sheltering During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which details how findings from existing research on evacuation behavior, social responses to disaster, and risk communication can be applied to emergency management in the era of COVID-19. The guidance identifies strategies for updating evacuation plans, sheltering operations, and risk communication practices in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The full guidance is available on the National Academies website.


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