Issue 11 (May 25)
During the May 20-21 meeting of the Council of Councils at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a Working Group on Basic Behavioral and Social Science Research (bBSSR) presented a report analyzing past support for basic research on behavioral and social phenomena related to health and areas ripe for additional study. The working group report, co-chaired by the Director of NIH’s Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) Dr. Bill Riley, looks at the historical trends of basic research at NIH and identifies potential trans-NIH opportunities to fill gaps in the agency’s efforts. The presentation touched on several trends in NIH basic behavioral and social science research, including the proportions of basic to applied research and neuroscientific and non-neuroscientific research at NIH over time. Several research topics were identified as needing more basic research including behavioral, cognitive, and social neuroscience; sleep and sex; epigenetics; infectious diseases; social interactions and health; maintaining behavior change; health processes; and the science of science. Although some concerns were raised by Council members about the absence of research on abuse and neglect, the findings of the report were generally well received. The report is available in full on the NIH website.
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.
A young Harvard economist is the first social or behavioral scientist to win the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Alan T. Waterman Award. That award, established in 1975 to honor the first director of the Foundation, is given annually to an American citizen or permanent resident who is 35 years of age or younger or has received the Ph.D. degree within the past five years. The recipient receives a medal and up to $500,000 in grants for three years of scientific research at an institution of his or her choice. The presentation of the award to Summers will be made on May 20 at a formal dinner held at the Department of State in Washington.
Summers is widely regarded as one of the outstanding economists of his generation. He has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at Harvard University, where he received the Ph.D. in 1982 and became a full professor of economics in 1983. He has served on the staff of the Council of Economic Advisers, has been a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a member of the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity, is currently serving on the NSF economics advisory panel, and edits the Quarterly Journal of Economics. In 1986, he received the Presidential Young Investigator award, administered by NSF, which provides five years of research support[…]
On May 17, the House of Representatives approved a group of bills introduced in the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee that aim to make the U.S. science enterprise more equitable, safe, and fair. Four bills, the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act (H.R. 144), the STEM Opportunities Act (H.R. 204), the MSI STEM Achievement Act (H.R. 2027), and the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act (H.R. 2695) were introduced by Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson and were endorsed by COSSA. The Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act would authorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a two-year pilot program to award grants to highly qualified early-career investigators to carry out an independent research program. The STEM Opportunities Act would provide for guidance, data collection, and grants for groups historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at higher education institutions and at federal science agencies. The MSI STEM Achievement Act would require the NSF to award grants for building the capacity of minority-serving institutions (MSIs) to increase the number and success of their students in the STEM workforce. The Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act (see COSSA’s previous coverage) 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. The House also passed the Rural STEM Education Act (H.R. 210), introduced by House Science Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), which would direct NSF to support research regarding STEM education in rural schools. These and other STEM-related bills may be rolled in with other, sweeping NSF authorizing legislation in the future, such as the NSF for the Future Act (see previous coverage).
On May 11, the National Science Foundation (NSF) named two co-winners of the 2021 Alan T. Waterman Award, the agency’s highest honor for early-career scientists. One of the co-winners, Dr. Nicholas Carnes, is a social scientist from Duke University who was recognized for research on the social determinants affecting people’s pursuit of public or community service. The Waterman Award was presented to the winners at the National Science Board (NSB) meeting on May 18-19.
“Getting involved in public service is a really time-consuming and really complicated process. The challenge for scientists is understanding all the links in the chain,” Carnes stated in recorded remarks during the NSB meeting. The award also comes with a grant of $1 million for the awardee’s research over the next five years. More information about the Waterman Award is available on the NSF website.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund has established a new program, Bridge to Artificial Intelligence (Bridge2AI), which aims to generate flagship data sets and best practices for the collection and preparation of Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML)-ready data to address biomedical and behavioral research grand challenges. The program plans to support several interdisciplinary Data Generation Projects (OTA-21-008) and one complementary cross-cutting Integration, Dissemination and Evaluation (BRIDGE) Center (NOT-RM-21-021). The new program was the subject of a recent post on the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Director’s blog. NIH will also host a series of webinars and virtual events in June to share more information about the program with prospective applications.
Kathleen A. Cagney, professor of sociology and director of the University of Chicago’s Population Research Center, has been named the next director of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (ISR). Cagney will also hold research professorships in ISR’s Survey Research Center and Population Studies Center. Her research examines social inequality and its relationship to health with a focus on neighborhood, race, and aging and the life course. Cagney will succeed David Lam, who has directed the Institute since 2015, and will return to the faculty. She will assume her new position on September 1.