Issue 08 (April 13)


White House Nominates Rob Santos, Current ASA President, to Lead Census Bureau

President Biden has named Robert Santos, Vice President & Chief Methodologist at the Urban Institute, as his Administration’s choice to lead the Census Bureau. Santos, who is currently serving as the President of the American Statistical Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member, has had a distinguished career, holding positions at the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center, NORC at the University of Chicago, and ISR Temple University. According to the White House press release, he has expertise in “survey sampling, survey design and more generally in social science/policy research.” Santos has also served on the advisory committees for the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics. If confirmed, Santos, who is Latinx, would be the first permanent director of color to lead the agency. He would take over from Acting Director Ron Jarmin, who has been leading the agency since the departure of Steven Dillingham (see previous coverage).

Biden Preliminary FY 2022 R&D Proposals Rely on “DARPA” Model

On April 9, the Biden Administration released preliminary, high-level details of its fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request, referred to as a “skinny budget.” At this stage, details are only available for Cabinet-level departments and a handful of other “major” agencies, with limited details about some agencies within the departments. For example, it includes preliminary details for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but not for the Census Bureau. Full budget details will be released in the coming months. In the meantime, however, Congress is proceeding with the FY 2022 appropriations process without the Administration’s full proposals. Appropriators in both chambers have already held a number of hearings on the FY 2022 budget and are continuing to schedule appearances from federal officials, including the Director of the National Science Foundation, who is scheduled to testify before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees this week.

Unsurprisingly, given the Biden Administration’s early priorities, the request’s most prominent new research initiatives are proposed in the areas of climate change and public health. Two of the largest R&D proposals in the budget aim to replicate the model implemented by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), which aims to catalyze high-risk high-reward projects across government, academia, and industry. The request proposes a $1 billion investment in the existing Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E) and in the creation of a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate (ARPA-C) within the Department of Energy. These agencies would collectively support “high-risk, high-reward solutions for adaptation and resilience against the climate crisis and enable robust investments in clean energy technology research and development.” In its budget requests, the Trump Administration repeatedly proposed eliminating ARPA-E.

The Biden Administration proposes a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The budget proposes $6.5 billion for this new division, which is intended to “drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs” and would initially focus on diseases including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. The request also proposes an additional $2.5 billion in funding for NIH’s other institutes and centers, which combined with the ARPA-H funding would be a total of $51 billion for the agency ($9 billion above its FY 2021 level).

The request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposes a total of $8.7 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion above the FY 2021 level. It includes a $100 million Community-Based Violence Intervention initiative that would, in collaboration with the Justice Department, implement evidence-based community violence interventions. The Administration also proposes doubling current funding for gun violence prevention research at the CDC and NIH, which would provide $25 million to each agency in FY 2022.

The Administration’s request for the National Science Foundation (NSF) would provide the agency with $10.2 billion, a 20 percent increase from its FY 2021 enacted level. The request would increase funding for NSF’s Research and Related Activities account, which houses most of its research directorates, including the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), by $1.6 billion, bringing it to a total of $9.4 billion. The request also repeats the proposal from the Biden Administration’s infrastructure plan (see related article) to establish a new directorate for technology and innovation.

The proposal would provide a total of $100 million in funding (a roughly 50 percent increase over FY 2021) for programs aiming to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in the sciences. According to the proposal, the funding would “support curriculum design, research on successful recruitment and retention methods, development of outreach or mentorship programs, fellowships, and building science and engineering research and education capacity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions.” In addition, the Administration proposes a $500 million increase ($1.2 billion total) for climate science and sustainability research. The proposal would fund a portfolio of research including on the “social, behavioral, and economic research on human responses to climate change.”

Time Running Out to Sign Up for Advocacy Day

2021 Advocacy Day headerCOSSA’s annual Social Science Advocacy is only two weeks away. There is still time to sign up to be part of the only annual, coordinated advocacy day in support of all disciplines of social and behavioral science. Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, registration this year is only $25. More information is available on the COSSA website.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Innovation and Competitiveness (January 30, 2006)

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.

In a recent New York Times column Nicholas Kristoff asked whether China or India would be the world’s dominant economic power in the year 2100. In order to stave off this unpalatable future, the U.S. science and engineering community in concert with key policymakers on Capitol Hill have put forth a new innovation and competitiveness agenda. For some long-time policy observers it is “déjà vu all over again.” In the 1980s this same agenda successfully drove proposals to increase science and engineering funding, although at that time the dangerous foe was Japan.

A National Academies report released last fall, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, has become the catalyst for numerous pieces of introduced or soon-to-be-introduced legislation. The message of the Academies panel, chaired by former Lockheed-Martin CEO Norman Augustine, is that U.S. economic dominance is under threat and that the proven way, citing studies by economists Robert Solow and Moses Abramovitz, to repel that threat is to increase federal support for enhancing America’s “scientific and technological prowess.”

Working from the recommendations in the report, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who requested the Academies’ study, have joined with their colleagues, Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to introduce three bills under the rubric “Protecting America’s Competitive Edge Acts” (PACE). Many of their proposals mirror earlier bills introduced in the House by Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ranking Democrat on the House Science Committee. In addition, Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and John Ensign (R-NV) have introduced “The National Innovation Act,” which is based on the Council on Competitiveness’ National Innovation Initiative Report.

Read more from this issue.

House Science Committee Releases Federal Scientific Workforce Report

Last month, the majority staff of the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology released the report Scientific Brain Drain: Quantifying the Decline of the Federal Scientific Workforce, an analysis of federal employment levels of seven federal science agencies: the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology (DHS S&T), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Energy (DOE), and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). The analysis looked across the past decade to understand how the federal government is investing in its increasing scientific responsibilities, alongside the context of racial, ethnic, and gender equity. The report identifies historical challenges facing U.S. researchers compared to other countries such as underinvestment in research, understaffing of STEM workers, lack of diversity in the scientific workforce, and lack of scientific integrity at federal agencies. The report calls on Congress and the executive branch to focus long-term attention and support to restore scientific integrity; increase funding for science agencies; embrace proactive recruitment, hiring, and retention policies; and deepen the commitment to diversity and equity. The full report is available on the Science Committee website.

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

Biden’s Infrastructure Proposal Includes $250 Billion in Research Funding

On March 31, the White House issued a fact sheet detailing many of the spending priorities in President Joe Biden’s proposed infrastructure initiative, the American Jobs Plan. The proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill addresses a wide range of pressing needs related to infrastructure and economic revitalization. Included is $180 billion to “Invest in R&D and Technologies of the Future” and an extra $70 billion for research-related priorities such as pandemic preparedness and innovation in rural communities, totaling $250 billion specifically for the U.S. research enterprise. Many of the details are still unclear, although the fact sheet names where much of this funding would be allocated:

  • $50 billion for the National Science Foundation over an unspecified period of time, some of which would be allocated for a new technology directorate.
  • $40 billion for upgrading research facilities, likely both national laboratories and university laboratories. One-half of this money would be allocated to minority-serving institutions (MSIs) such as historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), some of which for a new national climate research lab.
  • $35 billion for the development of technologies that address climate change and enhance clean energy and green jobs. The plan also calls for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate (ARPA-C).
  • $30 billion for R&D targeting innovation and economic growth in rural communities.
  • $25 billion specifically for MSIs, $10 billion of which for research funding and $15 billion to establish “centers of excellence” to train students in science and engineering fields.
  • $14 billion for the National Institute of Standards and Technology over an unspecified period of time.

COSSA will be closely following this and other infrastructure proposals and will share details as they are released.

Trump-Era Visa Restriction for Skilled Foreign Workers Expires

The Biden White House has decided not to renew a proclamation issued by former President Trump that restricted foreign travel to the United States. The now-defunct proclamation was notable for restricting the availability of the H1-B visa for skilled foreign workers, a category of visa that is commonly used by scientific and academic organizations to recruit international STEM workers and scientists. First implemented in June 2020 and extended through the end of March 2021, the proclamation was widely criticized by the scientific community as stifling the scientific workforce and harming relationships with global scientific talent (see previous COSSA coverage for more details). The Biden Administration’s decision to nix the policy is one of many pivots away from Trump-era immigration restrictions in science in favor of international collaboration. A list of other reversed immigration restrictions is available on the COSSA website.

NIH Releases Minority Health and Health Disparities Strategic Plan for 2021-2025

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released its strategic plan for 2021 through 2025 to advance minority health and health disparities research across all NIH institutes, offices, and centers. The strategic plan, which was developed with input across the NIH and the minority health and health disparity research community, lays out goals and strategies for the agency to advance additional scientific research, support research-adjacent activities, and expand outreach and strategic communications on minority health and health disparities. These goals and strategies include:

  • Promoting research to understand and improve the health of racial and ethnic minority populations.
  • Advancing scientific understanding of the causes of health disparities.
  • Developing and testing interventions to reduce disparities.
  • Creating and improving scientific methods to support health disparities research.
  • Supporting trainings and career advancement to enhance diversity and promote minority health and health disparities research.
  • Strengthening capacity to conduct minority health and health disparities research.
  • Ensuring representation of minority and other health disparity populations in NIH-funded research.
  • Promoting evidence-based community engagement of best practices.
  • Cultivating and expanding the community of minority health and health disparities researchers and advocates.

Both the strategic plan and an interactive webpage to explore the contents of the plan are available on the NIH website.

NSF Webinar Will Highlight Cross-Agency Funding Opportunities for Social Scientists

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) will hold a webinar on April 15 to highlight the opportunity for social scientists to participate in several major NSF-wide initiatives, including Trust and Authenticity in Communications Systems, Understanding the Rules of Life: Emergent Networks, mid-scale research infrastructure and others. Featured speakers will include NSF Assistant Director Arthur Lupia, head of the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate, and Douglas Maughan, head of NSF’s Convergence Accelerator Program. Information on registering is available here. Additional information about the webinar is available on the NSF website.

National Academies Launches “Hauser Policy Impact Fund” with Webinar Series

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE) has launched a new initiative, the Hauser Policy Impact Fund. The fund, named for longtime (now retired) DBASSE Executive Director Bob Hauser, aims to ensure that social science analysis and synthesis has a better chance to guide informed policy decisions. The activity will begin with a webinar series featuring three issues at the forefront of current policy discussions and that have diversity, equity, and inclusion as a central focus. Each webinar will feature policy and research experts as well as discuss policy implications from relevant DBASSE reports. The first webinar, on immigration, will take place on April 19. More information is available on the National Academies website.

Marta Tienda Named AAPSS President

The American Academy of Political and Social Science (AAPSS), a COSSA member, has announced the selection of Dr. Marta Tienda as its next president. She succeeds Dr. Ken Prewitt, who led the organization since 2015. Dr. Tienda is the Maurice P. During Professor in Demographic Studies and Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, with joint affiliations in the university’s Office of Population Research and The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. Her research interests include immigration, population diversification, and concentrated poverty, documenting how social arrangements and life course trajectories both perpetuate and reshape socioeconomic inequality.


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