Issue 10 (May 11)
As previously reported, leaders of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee introduced the National Science Foundation for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) earlier this spring. Over the last several weeks, the Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a series of hearings to discuss the bill and, more generally, “Advancing Research for the Future of U.S. Innovation.” On April 28, the hearing featured NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan and Chair of the National Science Board Ellen Ochoa. A second hearing featuring stakeholders of NSF funding, including representatives from research universities and the private sector, occurred on May 6. COSSA issued a statement in support of the NSF for the Future Act on May 7, applauding the bill for its comprehensive approach to strengthening NSF, enhancing its budget, and preserving its role as the premier U.S. basic science agency.
Throughout both hearings, Subcommittee members from both parties expressed strong bipartisan support for NSF and especially its basic science mission. The NSF for the Future Act proposes creation of a new Science and Engineering Solutions Directorate, which would be tasked with supporting more “use-inspired” research and translating basic research findings into solutions to address societal challenges. Both Democratic and Republican members of the Subcommittee stressed the importance of taking a careful and deliberate approach in setting up a new function so as to not harm NSF’s gold-standard basic research activities. Several members made references to the very different approach being taken in the Senate with the Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260), which is seeking to invest $100 billion directly into a new technology-focused directorate while making few other investments in the agency. See COSSA’s full coverage for details. Subcommittee Chair Haley Stevens (D-MI) made special note of the unique opportunity before us in which there is strong bipartisan support for significantly enhancing NSF’s budget.
Over the two hearings, Republican lawmakers focused their remarks and questions on the need to enhance competition with China and address research security concerns. Several argued that the best way to do that is through regular, strategic investments over the long term as opposed to a one-time infusion of funding that will be impossible to sustain, again a nod to the Endless Frontier Act.
In addition, several lawmakers discussed the need to enhance the U.S. scientific workforce and asked about NSF’s efforts to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many also discussed the need for additional investment in STEM education at the elementary level and for better mentoring and graduate training.
Recordings of both Science Committee hearings are available on the committee’s website. The Research and Technology Subcommittee plans to mark up the NSF for the Future Act on May 13, after which it will go to the full committee for consideration. In addition, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has scheduled a markup of the Endless Frontier Act for May 12. It remains unclear how or if the relevant sides plan to work out the differences between their respective bills. Stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage for more as these bills move forward.
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.
With the five year doubling of the National Institutes of Health’s budget about to come to a successful end, the focus has shifted to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its budget needs. For the past two years, Senators Christopher Bond (R-MO) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) have enunciated their support for doubling NSF’s budget over five years. Unfortunately, financial constraints and competing spending priorities have kept them from delivering on this promise from their perches as Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate VA, HUD, Appropriations Subcommittee (both have held each position in the past two years due to the shift in Senate control caused by the defection of Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT) from the Republican party).
On May 7, the House Science Committee led by its Chairman Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) jumped into the fray with a bill to reauthorize the NSF for three years that would provide a 15 percent increase each year, thus placing the Foundation on a doubling track. The legislation, H.R. 4664, received bipartisan endorsement from Rep. Ralph Hall (D- TX), Ranking Democrat on the Science panel, as well as Research Subcommittee Chair Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) and Ranking Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). Johnson had introduced her own doubling reauthorization bill last year.
At a press conference, where Reps. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), Connie Morella (R-MD), and Lamar Smith (R-TX) also endorsed H.R. 4664, Boehlert proclaimed: “This bill will help NSF get the real money it needs to succeed in all its tasks.” He further justified the increased spending by asserting that “NSF has the broadest research mission of any Federal science agency and the clearest educational mission. It needs the funding that goes with that expansive – and expensive – mandate.” Many representatives of the science and engineering community, most of whom, including COSSA, issued press statements supporting the budget doubling, attended the press conference.
COSSA members can sign up for the monthly COSSA Headlines webchat to catch up on the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer your questions. Stick around for our deep dive discussion on Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, with. Dr. Elizabeth Grieco, Senior Analyst at the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.
On May 12, scientific organizations, including COSSA, the Federation of Associations in Behavioral Brain Sciences, and SAGE Publishing, will observe “Understanding Diversity in STEM: WMPD Day.” The event takes its name from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics’ (NCSES) biannual report: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering. Organizations will hold events throughout the day to recognize, celebrate, and build on the contributions of women, minorities, and person with disabilities in the STEM enterprise. Scheduled activities include a kickoff event with experts from NCSES to discuss the most recent WMPD report (11 AM ET), a mid-day event from FABBS on LGBTQ+ and Multiracial Demographics in WMPD (1PM ET), and a closing event from the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and SAGE Publishing on building a more diverse and dynamic STEM workforce (4PM ET). A complete list of events is available on the WMPD Day website.
On April 29, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing to discuss the nomination of Dr. Eric Lander as President Biden’s pick to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), a role that the President has elevated to Cabinet-level. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) chaired the hearing and in her opening remarks, she acknowledged Lander’s scientific accomplishments, but also noted concerns about past actions related to women and minorities in STEM fields. The hearing provided an opportunity to clear the record on these and other issues and to explore Dr. Lander’s positions and goals if confirmed as OSTP director.
In his prepared remarks, Dr. Lander discussed the importance of inclusion in science and technology, highlighting the uneven opportunity provided across gender, race, and geography and the often unwelcoming nature of careers in science to women and people of color. In his role at OSTP, if confirmed, Dr. Lander promised that OSTP’s work will be rooted in equity, that he will hire an OSTP staff that “resembles the American population,” and that the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) will be “the most diverse in history.”
Questions from the Committee tackled a variety of topics, including OSTP’s role and plans related to climate change, scientific integrity, and pandemic recovery, as well as technologies of the future, cybersecurity, scientific workforce needs, disparity of NSF support to smaller institutions and smaller states, and enhancing partnerships with industry.
A committee vote on Dr. Lander’s nomination has not yet been scheduled.
The Minerva Research Initiative, the signature social science research program within the Department of Defense (DOD), has announced research opportunities for fiscal year (FY) 2021 and listed several target research topics for the program. Minerva aims to apply social science research to critical national security questions and inform broader DOD decision-making based on this research. The following nine topics have been listed as key areas of interest for research to address:
- Social Implications of Environmental Change
- Resource Competition, Social Cohesion, and Strategic Climate Resilience
- Security Risks in Ungoverned, Semi-Governed, and Differently-Governed Spaces
- Analysis of Foreign Influence Operations in Cross-Cultural Perspective
- Community Studies on Online and Offline Influence
- Computational Social Science Research on Difficult-to-Access Environments
- Social and Cultural Implications of Artificial Intelligence
- Humans and Outer Space
- Management and Information in the Defense Environment
Updates to the funding opportunities will be posted on the Minerva website as needed. Applications will be accepted through September 29, 2021. More information is available in the funding opportunity announcement.
On May 3, the U.S. Department of Education released a request for comments on proposed priorities and definitions within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program. The request cites two proposed priorities that will be used to tailor the EIR program to address timely issues: (1) Measuring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and teachers; and (2) Promoting equity in students’ access to educational opportunities.
The request also proposes three new definitions to be used for applications of the EIR program:
- “High-quality tutoring”, defined as tutoring based on evidence-based strategies to support success in the classroom, delivered in a small-group or individual setting from well-trained tutors, and is tailored to the student’s need and ability.
- “Personalized learning”, defined as instruction that is aligned with rigorous college- and career-ready standards so that the pace of learning and the instructional approach are tailored to the needs of individual learners.
- “Underserved students”, defined as high-need students as determined by one or more self-identified demographic and socioeconomic factors.
Comments will be accepted through June 2, 2021. More information is available in the Federal Register.
The Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) is accepting nominations for its Panel to Evaluate the Quality of the 2020 Census. This panel will prepare a consensus study report that will serve as a thorough operational and procedural review of the 2020 Census, to both assess the trustworthiness of the 2020 Census data products and to provide solid ground for the testing and experimentation that will lead to the 2030 Census.
CNSTAT is seeking nominees with expertise in survey and census methodology, including management of large-scale survey field operations; statistical and data science experience in the federal statistical system and in state, local, tribal, and territorial agencies; geography and population demography, including address list building and maintenance, generation of legal/political/service district boundaries, and assessment of special populations; and systems engineering, operations research and evaluation, and methods for ensuring privacy and confidentiality. Nominations may be submitted by completing the nomination form by May 14, 2021.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has launched several activities in partnership with the Department of Education to identify areas for growth in the fields of education research and education statistics in the federal government, especially programs within the Department’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES). On May 10, the National Academies panel on A Vision and Roadmap for Education Statistics in 2030 and Beyond held its first public meeting to develop a plan for modernizing education statistics at IES’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) by the year 2030. The panel will produce a report that prioritizes areas and activities for NCES to pursue for the remainder of the decade and outlines a vision for what the agency should should aspire to be and how it should operate.
Another NASEM panel, Opportunities for the National Assessment of Educational Progress in an Age of AI and Pervasive Computation: A Pragmatic Vision for 2030 and Beyond, will be hold its first meetings on May 13-14 to discuss the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a Congressionally-mandated assessment administered by NCES for grade-school children in core subjects. The panel will aim to identify innovations for the assessment, especially to incorporate digital technology and reduce the costs of administering the assessment over the next ten years. The panel will produce a short, accessible report that makes recommendations for potential changes to NAEP.
A third NASEM panel on The Future of Education Research at the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education, will convene to provide recommendations to IES on potential improvements to be made for research within IES’s National Center for Education Research (NCER) and National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER). Topics the panel will address include potential gaps in research areas, best practices for organizing application requests for research, new research methods that should be encouraged, and new investments for research training that may benefit the institute. Although the panel’s meetings dates have yet to be publicly announced, the committee will publish a report making conclusions and recommendations for IES.
The Social Science Research Council (SSRC), a COSSA member, has named Anna Harvey, a leading scholar of government, law, and inequality, and professor of politics at New York University, as its 15th president and CEO. Dr. Harvey succeeds Alondra Nelson, who has since taken a key role in the Biden Administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Dr. Harvey, a political scientist by training is a founding director of NYU’s Public Safety Lab and also holds appointments as professor of law and of data science. She assumes her new role on July 1.
The American Academy of Political and Social Science (AAPSS) and SAGE Publishing will co-host a Moynihan Prize event on May 13 at 3:00pm ET titled “A Turning Point for International Climate Policy? New Approaches to Environmental and Economic Cooperation.” The event will include a webinar and panel discussion focused on international economic and regulatory approaches to environmental policy Nobel laureate and Moynihan Prize recipient William Nordhaus. The event will take place at 3. More details and information on registration is available here.