Issue 09 (April 27)


Today is Social Science Advocacy Day; Advocates Highlighting Social Science for Recovery and Beyond

2021 Advocacy Day headerOn April 27, more than 60 social and behavioral scientists are participating in COSSA’s seventh annual Social Science Advocacy Day, meeting virtually with Members of Congress and their staff about the many ways social and behavioral science can help the nation recover from the pandemic and tackle the other major challenges it faces. Advocates from 21 states will conduct approximately 80 meetings with Congressional offices. They are equipped with materials that help to explain the unique contributions the social and behavioral sciences make to recovery and to address other pressing national issues; these factsheets are available on COSSA’s Advocacy Resources page. You can help amplify this message by responding to COSSA’s Action Alert on social science and the COVID-19 crisis.

COSSA is particularly grateful to the event’s sponsors, who made this year’s virtual event possible. Sincere thanks to the American Anthropological Association, American Educational Research Association, American Political Science Association, American Psychological Association, American Sociological Association, Boston University, Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Midwest Political Science Association, National Communication Association, Ohio State University, Penn State Social Science Research Institute, Population Association of America, SAGE Publishing, Society for Personality and Social Psychology, University of Arizona, University of California, Irvine School of Social Sciences, and Wiley.

“Why Social Science?” Can Help Us Communicate Numbers

why-social-scienceThe latest Why Social Science? post comes from Ellen Peters, Director of the University of Oregon’s Center for Science Communication Research, who writes about ways policymakers can communicate numbers and statistics in ways that enhance—rather than diminish—the public’s understanding. Read it here and subscribe.

Competing NSF Bills Introduced in House and Senate

As previously reported, leadership of the House Science Committee introduced the NSF for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) on March 26. The bill seeks to reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) through FY 2026 and proposes more than doubling the agency’s budget over that period. The legislation also proposes the creation of a new research directorate, the Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions (SES), which would enable NSF to “take big risks and experiment with new approaches to accelerating the translation of science and technology into solutions to society’s major challenges” (see press release).

Meanwhile, competing legislation has been reintroduced in the Senate. The Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260), legislation that originally surfaced in 2020 by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), was reintroduced on April 20. While this bill also seeks to create a new directorate at NSF, that is largely where the similarities end between the two bills. The primary purpose of the Endless Frontier Act is to shore up U.S. leadership in key technology areas—specifically with respect to China—and to enhance “tech transfer” for scientific research funded by the federal government. To accomplish these goals, the bill would authorize $100 billion over five years for a new Technology and Innovation Directorate at NSF. Unlike the House bill, S. 1260 would not provide an overall authorization or increased funding for NSF, just the new directorate.

COSSA has prepared a side-by-side comparison of provisions relevant to the social sciences in the two bills, which is available here.

The Endless Frontier Act is scheduled for mark up by the Senate Commerce Committee on April 28. At this time, it remains unclear if or how the differences between the bills will be reconciled or whether either will advance any further. COSSA is closely monitoring the legislation and will report on new developments. In the meantime, do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns about either bill.

Appropriators Hold Hearings on NSF Budget for FY 2022 & Potential New Research Funding

This month, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees held hearings to address the Biden Administration’s proposed budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in fiscal year (FY) 2022. In addition to the budget, both hearings addressed the possibility of significant funding increases for the agency through a new technology directorate as proposed in the Endless Frontiers Act (S. 1260) (see related article). NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan was the sole witness at both hearings, voicing strong support for the Biden Administration’s proposed increases to the NSF budget.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) held its hearing overseen by Subcommittee Chair Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) on April 13. Both Shaheen and Moran spoke highly of the mission of NSF and seemed open to budget increases for the agency as proposed in the Endless Frontiers Act. However, despite agreement that more funding for research was necessary, members of both parties expressed that they wanted more details before throwing full support behind the increase. Other topics discussed during the hearing were global scientific competitiveness, particularly with China, research security, NSF’s EPSCoR program, funding levels for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and increasing diversity in the scientific workforce. The hearing recording is available on the Senate CJS  Subcommittee website.

The House Appropriations CJS Subcommittee held its hearing overseen by Subcommittee Chair Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Ranking Member Robert Aderholt (R-AL) on April 14. Like the Senate hearing, members of both parties seemed generally supportive of NSF yet wanted more specifics, with some members of the minority expressing concern of the size of the budget increase. Other issues discussed during the hearing were cybersecurity and its role in research security, investments towards diversity in the scientific workforce, encouraging STEM education and training, and NSF’s role in addressing greater societal challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change. The hearing recording is available on the House CJS Subcommittee website.

House Science Committee Reintroduces Legislation to Combat Sexual Harassment in Science

On April 20, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (SST) reintroduced the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act (H.R. 2695), bipartisan legislation that would expand research on the causes and consequences of sexual harassment in the STEM workforce as well as direct data to influence policy to reduce the negative impacts of sexual harassment. COSSA has been an endorser of the legislation since 2018 when it was first introduced (see previous coverage for more details). More information is available in a press release available on the SST website.

Senate Focuses on Research Security, Introduces New Anti-China Provisions

The Senate has directed its attention towards competition with China as of late, resulting in activities focusing on research security as an extension of U.S.-China policy. On April 15, the Strategic Competition Act of 2021 (S. 1169) was introduced in the Senate by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Jim Risch (R-ID), the Chairman and Ranking Member respectively of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The bipartisan bill includes a long list of measures related to competition with China, including issues related to the security of the U.S. research enterprise. One section of the bill controversially increases oversight at academic institutions on foreign gifts (which may include research grants) by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), effectively giving CFIUS the power to suspend or cancel foreign-granted activities at academic institutions if they are deemed harmful to national security concerns. As the bill is still a work in progress, COSSA will monitor the legislation for future updates.

In addition to this legislation, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on April 22 addressing research security in the biomedical research enterprise, especially related to global scientific competition with China. Witnesses included Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Michael Lauer, Acting Director of the Office of National Security at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Lisa Aguirre, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations at HHS Gary Cantrell, and Acting Director of Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Candice Wright. The Committee members, led by Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC), all expressed deep concern with the potential threat of espionage and cyberattacks at research institutions and inquired how HHS and NIH are combatting espionage in the research enterprise, especially concerning foreign gift reporting and data transfer threats at U.S. universities. A recording of the hearing is available on the HELP Committee website.

Congress Holds Hearings on Behavioral Health

Over the past several weeks, Congressional Committees have held several hearings to discuss mental and behavioral health care, including mental health parity and emergency response to mental health crises. On April 15, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on “Meeting the Moment: Improving Access to Behavioral and Mental Health Care.” The Subcommittee heard testimony from Chief of Psychology in the Public Interest at the American Psychological Association (APA) Brian Smedley, Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Christine Moutier, Senior Vice President of Health Policy at The ERISA Industry Committee James Gelfand, and Founder of Psych-Appeal Meiram Bendat. Witnesses raised several issues with previous legislation such as the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) and argued for stronger federal enforcement, increased use of telehealth, and the encouragement of interstate mental health licensing. The Subcommittee also discussed the need for more mental health professionals across the country, briefly asking witnesses what Congress can do to encourage and aid students through their education and training. When discussing mental health and policing, Dr. Smedley mentioned the fact that state employee health plans can opt-out of MHPAEA protections for essential workers such as teachers, firefighters, and police. The House hearing can be viewed here on the Committee website.

On April 23, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism held a hearing on “Behavioral Health and Policing: Interactions and Solutions.” The Subcommittee heard testimony from the Commander of the Education & Training Section of the Baltimore Police Department Martin Bartness, Co-Director of The Mental Health Strategic Impact Initiative Keris Jän Myrick, Outreach Manager of Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) Ebony Morgan, Executive Director at the Technical Assistance Collaborative Kevin Martone, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute Rafael Mangual, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, and wife of a fallen officer, Terri O’Connor. The Subcommittee generally acknowledged the faults with the current mental health care system and addressed topics such as the implementation of national mental health crisis response teams and some successful examples such as the CAHOOTS program. The Senate hearing can be viewed here on the Committee website.

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

SBE Calls for Proposals for International Collaborative Research to Aid Pandemic Recovery

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) has announced that it is participating in the Trans-Atlantic Platform Call for Proposals: Recovery, Renewal, and Resilience in a Post-Pandemic World (T-AP RRR). T-AP RRR is a grant competition that will support international collaborative research projects that address gaps in our understanding of the complex and dynamic societal effects of COVID-19. Proposals are asked to address one or more of the following challenges: reducing inequalities and vulnerabilities; building a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable society; fostering democratic governance and participation; advancing responsible and inclusive digital innovation; and/or ensuring effective and accurate communication and media. In addition, collaborative research teams must include researchers based in at least three participating countries and include partners from both sides of the Atlantic. More information is available in the Dear Colleague Letter. Submissions are due by July 12.

ECHO Program Seeks Comments on Collecting Pre-Conception Data

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a request for information (RFI) on improving the science of the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program (see COSSA’s previous coverage). NIH is interested in input from the external community on topics including (but not limited to) enhancing the program’s study origins of child health outcomes originating prior to conception, as well as more general strategies for maintaining scientific value while reducing the burden of primary data collection on participants and staff, addressing public health emergencies, enhancing recruitment and retention of diverse populations, and promoting diversity of the workforce related to child health. NIH will hold a webinar on May 6 to provide additional information on the RFI. Comments will be accepted through May 25. More information is available on the NIH website.

First 2020 Census Data Released; 7 Congressional Seats Change Hands

On April 26, the Census Bureau released the first data from the 2020 Census, including each state’s apportionment population counts (used to allocate seats to the U.S. House of Representatives and electoral college votes), resident population accounts, and overseas population counts. The release of the Constitutionally-required information was delayed due to the operational challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the additional time needed to correct duplicate and incomplete responses. Overall, seven Congressional seats will shift as a result of the 2020 Census. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia will each lose one Congressional seat, while Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Montana, and North Carolina will each gain one seat. Texas will gain two Congressional seats.

More detailed data on the populations of smaller geographic areas that states will use to redraw their individual Congressional districts is expected to be released in August. The next release will also include more detailed demographic information on race, ethnicity, age, and gender. As states await the publication of this information, several lawsuits are progressing through the courts attempting to force the Bureau to release the data earlier and to prevent it from adopting differential privacy techniques to keep individuals’ data anonymous. Stay tuned to all of COSSA’s 2020 Census coverage here.

NSB Seeks Nominations for 2022 Vacancies

Nominations are being sought for to fill eight upcoming vacancies on the National Science Board (NSB), the policy-making body of the National Science Foundation (NSF) that also serves as an independent advisor to the President and Congress on federal science policy. The Board consists of 24 members who serve staggered six-year terms, with the NSF director serving as a 25th ex officio member. Nominations are considered by the NSB, which makes recommendations to the White House and new members of the Board are appointed by the President. For the incoming class of 2022-2028, the NSB is particularly interested in individuals with expertise in cyberinfrastructure and computational science, private-sector technology management, translation/innovation/partnerships, promotion of diversity and minority serving institutions, geoscience, STEM education and the science of learning, and engineering. More on these and other selection criteria are available in the NSB’s Dear Colleague letter. More information on the nomination process is available on the NSB website. Nominations are due by May 31, 2021.

New SEAN Guidance Offers Strategies for Communicating About Vaccine Efficacy

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) (see COSSA’s previous coverage) has published a new guidance on Understanding and Communicating Vaccine Efficacy and Effectiveness. The guidance is intended to help public officials prepare and evaluate their communications efforts around vaccination. It is available as an interactive web tool, with highlights on Communicating Vaccine Efficacy and on Communicating About Efficacy and Effectiveness in the Context of Equity in Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution, as well as a full report on the National Academies website.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: NIH Launches ECHO Program (October 4, 2016)

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 September 21, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the launch of the seven-year Environmental Influences on Children Health Outcomes (ECHO) program designed to “investigate how exposure to a range of environmental factors in early development–from conception through early childhood–influences the health of children and adolescents.” The agency planned to allocate $157 million in funding in fiscal year (FY) 2016 for ECHO. Presenting at the September 21 National Advisory Child Health and Human Development (NACHHD) Council, ECHO Director Matthew Gillman outlined the goals of the study. Gillman noted that the aims for ECHO are consistent with the agency’s goals for the now discontinued National Children’s Study, however, the approach is different.

In addition to examining such exposures as air pollution, ECHO will also examine “societal factors such as stress, to individual behaviors like sleep and diet.” The program will use the Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) program to create pediatric clinical research networks in rural and medically underserved areas in an effort to allow children in these areas the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. The ECHO infrastructure will include: pediatric cohorts, a coordinating center, a data analysis center, the Children’s Health and Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR) core, a Patient Reported Outcomes (PRO) core, and an IDeA States Pediatric Clinical Trials Network (ISPCTN), which has been funded up front for four year.

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