Issue 14 (July 6)
HOT TOPIC: Competing Visions – The NSF for the Future Act and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act
In June 2021, the House and Senate advanced separate versions of legislation to enhance U.S. innovation and global competitiveness. The approaches taken by the two bills, however, differ dramatically. The Senate bill focuses squarely on ways to harness and in some cases alter the nation’s scientific assets to better compete with China. The House bill, on the other hand, doubles down on the nation’s existing, proven scientific leadership and proposes additional investments to push the U.S. research enterprise—particularly the National Science Foundation—into new directions.
Despite the many differences between them, some parallels can be found; for example, both propose establishing a new directorate at the National Science Foundation focused on technology development and translational research, and both measures include substantive provisions related to research security and STEM education. Beyond that, though, many unresolved differences remain.
Read on for COSSA’s in-depth analysis and comparison of provisions in the National Science Foundation for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260) that are of most relevance to the social and behavioral science community.
COSSA members can sign up for the monthly 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 as we break down the House and Senate’s competing NSF reauthorization bills and what they could mean for the social and behavioral sciences. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.
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.
As previously reported, lawmakers worked in the final weeks of 2016 to find common ground on research innovation legislation, known as the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S. 3084), before adjourning for the year. The bill passed the Senate in early December, but did not get a House vote before lawmakers headed home for the holidays. However, given that the House had not yet officially adjourned for the year, the bill was quietly passed on December 16 in pro forma session along with a number of other bills under suspension of the rules. President Obama signed the bill into law on January 6, 2017.
The resulting law includes variety of science policy provisions covering topics such as the National Science Foundation’s merit review process, STEM education, and administrative burden, among others. In general, it is a positive bill for research, especially compared to earlier versions considered in the House. It is important to note, however, that while the original purpose of earlier legislation in the House and Senate was to authorize funding for NSF for the years ahead, agreement could not be reached on overall levels and therefore negotiators elected to keep numbers out the bill. That means that NSF’s authorization is still expired (since 2013) and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee (under the leadership of Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX)) may very well introduce another NSF authorization bill in the new Congress. COSSA will continue to follow such efforts.
As Congressional appropriators are preparing legislation that will determine funding for federal science and data agencies for the next year, COSSA released an action alert urging social science advocates to reach out to their Congressional representatives to tell them to fight for robust investments in social and behavioral science research and data. COSSA created a menu of letters that stakeholders can send to their Members of Congress to share their priorities for the coming year. COSSA’s TAKE ACTION page allows advocates to quickly send a letter to their Senators and Representative and tell them why they care about supporting the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Education Sciences, international education programs, or the federal statistical system.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has issued a request for information (RFI) on ways to improve the effectiveness of federal scientific integrity policies, in support of President Biden’s January 27 Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking (see previous coverage). OSTP has convened an interagency task force of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) that will conduct a review of the government’s science integrity policies. To inform this effort, OSTP seeks information about: “(1) The effectiveness of federal scientific integrity policies and needed areas of improvement; (2) good practices federal agencies could adopt to improve scientific integrity, including in the communication of scientific information, addressing emerging technologies and evolving scientific practices, supporting professional development of Federal scientists, and promoting transparency in the implementation of agency scientific integrity policies; and (3) other topics or concerns that Federal scientific integrity policies should address.” More details and information on how to respond to the RFI is available in the Federal Register notice. Comments should be submitted by July 28, 2021.
On June 30, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued new guidance related to the implementation of the 2018 Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (“Evidence Act”) (see previous coverage). The guidance (memorandum M-21-27)—the first Evidence Act guidance released under the Biden Administration—affirms the Administration’s commitment to the goals of the Evidence Act and expands on previously released guidance related to Learning Agendas and Annual Evaluation Plans. It also more explicitly connects agency activities under the Evidence Act to the White House’s January 27 Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking (see previous coverage and related article). The guidance reasserts the principle that evaluation and evidence-building should be integrated into the everyday work of federal agencies: “OMB strongly believes that implementing the Evidence Act is not a compliance exercise […]. Agencies should not simply produce the required documents and then turn their attention elsewhere; success requires that agencies develop processes and practices that establish habitual and routine reliance on evidence across agency functions and demand new or better evidence when it is needed.” More details are available in the memorandum.
On June 23, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague Letter highlighting existing opportunities for collaboration at the agency’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate and Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate. The letter cites the prevalence of overlap between the fields of social science and computer science as motivation for increased collaboration and that this collaboration may be critical for addressing societal problems. The letter also notes that the SBE and CISE Advisory Committees have been discussing research areas of mutual interest which may indicate increased collaborations in the future. A list of the potential collaborative programs is available on the NSF website.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) have released a new consensus study report titled Rental Eviction and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Averting a Looming Crisis, which addresses the impending expiration of the federal moratorium on rental evictions on July 21, imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report offers a set of recommendations to be taken over the next three years to address the impacts of housing instability caused by the pandemic. The report also recommends the establishment of a task force in the Executive Office of the President to prevent rental evictions and housing instability. Some of the recommendations include:
- Harnessing existing social programs to connect renters with financial and legal assistance.
- Providing assistance to renters in traditionally marginalized communities.
- Expanding social safety net programs during and beyond the pandemic.
- Improving data collection and reporting to better understand eviction.
- Commissioning research on housing instability.
- Increasing the availability of housing choice vouchers and housing search support.
- Reducing discriminatory housing practices and systemic housing inequities.
The report is available on the NASEM website.
On June 29 and 30, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) held a summit to address the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in 21st century science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) organizations. The summit took place over the course of two days with discussions revolving around how systemic racism affects individuals of underrepresented racial and ethnic group in STEMM careers and how to implement strategies and policies that will advance diversity in STEMM environments and organizations.
The first day included discussions on the systemic and structural nature of racism and bias, diving into the historical context for racism in the U.S., the importance of diversity, and institutional practices/patterns of behavior. Victor Dzau of the National Academy of
Medicine (NAM) began by stating, “We need to develop and implement the best practices drawing from research and partnering with fields such as social psychology, industrial organizational psychology, business, and human resources.” This led to a discussion on how changing the rhetoric on these issues is a start, but it will take institutions truly committing themselves to change for real progress to be made. The general consensus of the panelists was that it is crucial to understand the U.S.’s past of racism and inequality to set us on a path forward within STEMM to ensure history does not repeat itself.
The second day focused on how we can move the system forward by exploring the importance of diversity, efforts of the National Academies to date, and other approaches institutions have taken along with the limitations of those approaches. Panelists began by discussing that to optimize some of our nation’s best resources, it is necessary to create environments where all scientists are treated fairly and inclusively. With this, Eliseo J. Pérez Stable of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) noted that to properly implement this kind of equity, one must think about structure and power. All speakers agreed that real change will take a multitude of people and ideas working together to not just discuss but to take real action.
More information is available on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) website.
This article was contributed by COSSA’s summer intern, Lillian Chmielewska of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.