Issue 19 (September 28)

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Details of House Democrats’ Reconciliation Proposals Released; Road to Passage Still Unclear

As previously reported, House Democrats are currently working to pass their $3.5 billion “Build Back Better” plan through the fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget reconciliation process. As part of the process, authorizing committees have been tasked with making recommendations for how to allocate the funding in the plan. At this point, all committees have made and approved their recommendations, which have been compiled by the House Budget Committee into a final package to be approved by the full House. Negotiations are underway with various wings of the Democratic caucus to reach an agreement to pass the full bill in the next week. Details of some of the committee recommendations most relevant to the social sciences are described below. See COSSA’s previous coverage for more on the House Science Committee’s recommendations for National Science Foundation funding. In addition, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has compiled further details on the package related to science.

The House Agriculture Committee’s recommendations would provide additional funding, available through fiscal year (FY) 2031, to research and statistics program at the Department of Agriculture in addition to their regular FY 2022 appropriations. The Economic Research Service (ERS) would receive an additional $45 million for analysis and research related to climate change, and the Office of the USDA Chief Economist would receive an additional $3.2 million for the same purpose. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) would receive a total of $54 million: $40 million for data and research related to climate change and $14 million to collect data on urban, indoor, and emerging agricultural production as directed in the 2018 Farm Bill. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would receive $4.8 billion in funding between FY 2022 and FY 2026. Within that amount, NIFA’s extramural research Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (NIFA) would receive $200 million to fund research related to climate change.

The Energy and Commerce portion of the package recommends $7 billion in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support core public health infrastructure. In addition, the committee would allocate an additional $5 billion to support the CDC’s laboratory infrastructure and $1 billion for CDC’s surveillance capabilities. The package would also set aside for $1.25 billion for the CDC to make grants to “strengthen vaccine confidence, strengthen routinely recommended vaccine programs, and improve rates of vaccination.” The CDC’s Data Modernization Initiative, which has received significant investments in previous relief bills would be provided with an additional $500 million to be used for “(1) Supporting public health data surveillance, aggregation, and analytics infrastructure modernization initiatives; (2) Enhancing reporting and workforce core competencies in informatics and digital health; [and] (3) Expanding and maintaining efforts to modernize the United States disease warning system to forecast and track hotspots and emerging biological threats.”

The Energy and Commerce Committee’s recommendations also include a section on maternal mortality. It recommends providing $50 million in grants to minority-serving institutions to be used for: “(1) Developing and implementing systematic processes of listening to the stories of pregnant and postpartum individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups, and perinatal health workers supporting such individuals, to fully understand the causes of, and inform potential solutions to, the maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity crisis within their respective communities; (2) Assessing the potential causes of relatively low rates of maternal mortality among Hispanic individuals and foreign-born Black women; and (3) Assessing differences in rates of adverse maternal health outcomes among subgroups identifying as Hispanic.” The Energy and Commerce piece also recommends $3 billion to establish an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the high-risk high-reward research agency that has been a frequently touted priority of the Biden Administration (see previous COSSA coverage for more details). In addition, language authorizing ARPA-H is likely to be included in the Cures 2.0 legislation expected to be introduced any day now by Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI). The Committee also recommends $15 million in additional funding for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support research on mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pregnant and postpartum individuals, with a particular focus on racial and ethnic minorities.

CommuniVax Coalition Answers “Why Social Science”

The latest Why Social Science? post comes from a group of anthropologists on behalf of the CommuniVax Coalition, an alliance of social scientists, public health experts, and community advocates working to strengthen COVID-19 vaccination efforts in the United States, particularly in communities of color.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Budget Deal Falls Through; Sequestration Probable (October 5, 1990)

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.

Early in the morning of October 5, the House of Representatives rejected the budget deal negotiated by White House and congressional leaders. The compromise, which would have cut $40 billion from the FY 1991 deficit, failed by a vote of 197-254, reflecting a bipartisan rebuff of both President Bush and congressional leaders. Voting against the bill were 105 of the House’s 176 Republicans and 149 of the chamber’s 257 Democrats.

Washington awakes this morning to ask: what now? If action is not completed on a new continuing resolution, the government will be forced to shut down a wide variety of functions after the current resolution expires October 5. Failure to pass the stopgap measure will trigger automatic – and much-dreaded – 40 percent cuts in all programs. Moreover, the federal government’s authority to borrow money also expires October 5 since the debt ceiling has not been increased.

President Bush has threatened to veto any further continuing resolutions, thus chastising Congress for failing to accept the budget deal and creating fiscal chaos. If sequestration occurs, the impact on research funding will be severe. How long the sequestration will last and whether a new deal will be cut remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

Read more from this issue.

Fate of 2022 Spending Unknown as End of Fiscal Year Looms

On Monday, the Senate blocked the House-passed continuing resolution (CR) that would have kept the government funded through December 3. Senate Republicans opposed the bill because it includes a suspension of the debt limit through mid-December. The Senate will try to pass a “clean” CR later this week to avoid a government shutdown come October 1, the start of fiscal year (FY) 2022.

In the meantime, the fate of the FY 2022 appropriations bills remains in limbo. As previously reported, the House has passed nine of its 13 annual spending bills over the summer, while the remaining bills have passed committee but have not reached a floor vote. The Senate Appropriations Committee, meanwhile, has yet to release details of the bills of most interest to the scientific community.

In all likelihood, a CR will be enacted until December, giving Congress additional time to work through its many competing priorities, including President Biden’s Build Back Better initiative (see related article), reconciliation legislation, and, of course, FY 2022 appropriations.

Stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage for the latest on these and other important topics.

House Science Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Social Media Data Research

On September 28, the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight within the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (SST) held a hearing on social media platforms, data, and research focused on misinformation spread. Witnesses at the hearing included Professor and Interim Dean at Khoury College of Computer Sciences at Northeastern University Dr. Alan Mislove; Ph.D. Candidate and Co-Director of Cybersecurity for Democracy at New York University Laura Edelson; and Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Department of Sociology Dr. Kevin Leicht.

Subcommittee Chair Bill Foster (D-IL), Ranking Member Jay Obernolte (R-CA), and Full Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) all expressed great concern about the role of social media algorithms in spreading misinformation and shared support for increasing access for researchers to study social media platforms. Specifically, Facebook was singled out by witnesses as a prime example of a “black box” social media platform that hinders research being conducted on their platform, hides algorithmic practices, and uses moderation tools on extremist content in an inconsistent manner. Members questioned the witnesses on a wide variety of topics including data sharing tools such as Facebook’s CrowdTangle and Twitter’s Firehose API, ethical practices that other social media platforms have used, the accessibility of data for researchers on social media, ethical issues with social media platform business models, and the potential for legislative action regarding social media data. Witness testimonies and a recording of the hearing are available on the SST Committee website.

House Committee Holds Hearing on COVID-19 Impacts on Children, Highlights Mental Health Impacts

On September 22, the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce (E&C) held a hearing to address the public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children. Witnesses included President of the American Academy of Pediatrics Dr. Lee Savio Beers, President of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University Dr. Margaret G. Rush, Chief Executive Officer of the American Psychological Association (a COSSA governing member) Dr. Arthur Evans, founder of VaxTeen Kelly Danielpour, and Epidemiologist Dr. Tracy Beth Hoeg.

Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO), Ranking Member Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and full Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) all made remarks about the negative health effects in children from the pandemic, with much importance placed on the behavioral and mental health of children. Behavioral and mental health played a central role in the hearing, with discussions touching on the funding and quality of mental health services in schools, specific issues affecting children from racial and gender minority groups, challenges arising from remote schooling, and disparities in COVID-19 vaccinations among school-aged children. In his testimony, Dr. Evans noted that behavioral and mental health services for children must also outlast the current COVID-19 crisis, stating, “If we are to systematically reimagine the way we provide both physical and mental health care, our response cannot just be COVID-centric, but must be sustainable, equitable, and forward thinking.” Statements from DeGette, Griffith, Pallone, and each of the witnesses are available on the E&C website.

Three Social Scientists Named to PCAST

On September 22, President Biden announced the appointment of 30 members to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the body of external advisors charged with making science, technology, and innovation policy recommendations to the President and the White House. The White House announcement notes that this is the most diverse group of PCAST members in U.S. history; it is led by its first female external co-chairs, Dr. Frances Arnold and Dr. Maria Zuber (in addition to Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Eric Lander) and is composed of over 50 percent women and one-third people of color and immigrants. Three of the PCAST members appointed by the President represent the social sciences: social epidemiologist and health services researcher Dr. Lisa A. Cooper (John Hopkins University), economist Dr. Jonathan Levin (Stanford University), social psychologist Dr. Jennifer Richeson (Yale University). The White House press release boasts that President Biden’s Council includes “20 elected members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, five MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellows, two former Cabinet secretaries, and two Nobel laureates.” Full details on all of the appointees are available on the White House website. PCAST will hold its first two meeting this week, on Strengthening U.S. Global Leadership and Public Health Preparedness.

AI Advisory Committee Seeks Nominations

Nominations are open for the inaugural National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Advisory Committee, which is being established in accordance with the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act of 2020 passed as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2021 defense authorization bill last year. That bill created the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative to coordinate AI research and policy across the federal government and a national network of AI research institutes and provided for the establishment of an advisory committee to inform this effort. According to the bill, committee members should represent “broad and interdisciplinary expertise and perspectives”—including in the social and behavioral sciences—with particular expertise related to “science and technology research, development, ethics, standards, education, technology transfer, commercial application, security, and economic competitiveness related to artificial intelligence.” In addition to the main advisory committee, members are also being sought for a Subcommittee on Artificial Intelligence and Law Enforcement. Individuals may be nominated to serve on either or both advisory bodies. More information is available in the Federal Register notice. The deadline for nominations is October 25, 2021.

Research!America Requesting Proposals for Civic Engagement Microgrants

Research!America has announced that it is accepting proposals for its Civic Engagement Microgrant Program, which awards grants of up to $4,000 to graduate student and postdoc-led groups in STEM (including social science) to design projects that create dialogue with public officials, local community leaders, and the public around issues of common concern. The funds provide opportunities for grantees to develop skills in communication and program planning, along with an understanding of policy and government in order to have an impact in their local areas. Applications are due October 12, 2021. More details are available on Research!America’s website.

University of Maryland to Host Workshop on University-Industry Partnerships in the Social Sciences

The University of Maryland and UIDP, with support from COSSA, the National Science Foundation, MITRE, and Optimal Solutions Group, will be hosting a two-part Workshop on University-Industry Partnerships in the Social Sciences. This workshop, which will convene a virtual session on October 14, 2021, and an in-person main event on April 20-21, 2022, aims to bring together a wide variety of experts from within academia, government, non-profits, and the private sector to consider the potential of cross-sector partnerships to advance social and behavioral science and to benefit society. Three topics of focus have been identified for the sessions:

  • Using Mission-Oriented Innovation to Address Societal Challenges 
  • Mapping Privacy Influencers: Partnerships to Understand Emerging Privacy Policy
  • Developing a Mental Wellbeing Index for Addressing Behavioral Health Inequities

Registration for the workshop is free and open to everyone. A workshop agenda and registration information are available on the University of Maryland website.

ASA Task Force Releases Report on Quality of 2020 Census State Totals

The Task Force on 2020 Census Quality Indicators convened by the American Statistical Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member, released its final report on September 14. That task force, chaired by former U.S. Chief Statistician Nancy Potok, was formed in September 2020 to assess the quality of data from the 2020 Census, given the challenges of conducting the census during the pandemic and concerns about political interference from the Trump Administration. The task force evaluated a set of 10 state-level “process statistics” relevant for evaluating the quality of census state-level totals used for apportionment and concluded that it found “no evidence of anything other than an independent and professional enumeration process” and “no major anomalies that would indicate census numbers are not fit for use for purposes of apportionment.” However, the task force did not have access to sufficient data to “more thoroughly evaluate the quality, accuracy, and coverage of the 2020 Census” and that additional assessment is needed to evaluate the quality of data used for apportionment and distribution of federal funds. That task force further recommended that the Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT), which is conducting a more comprehensive assessment of the Census, pay close attention to “the increase in missing household characteristics, new procedures for counting overseas population, late-breaking changes in methods for using administrative records to enumerate nonresponding households, increased uses of imputation including for group quarters, and prompt determination of any increase in undercount of Black and Hispanic populations and children relative to 2010 based on demographic analysis.”  In addition, the task force recommended that the 2030 Census planning process allow the assessment of data quality prior to the release of data as opposed to doing it after the fact. The full task force report is available on the ASA website.

AERA to Host Annual Brown Lecture on Intersectionality and Education Equity

The American Educational Research Association (AERA), a COSSA governing member, will host its annual Brown Lecture in Education Research virtually on October 21 at 6:00 pm ET. The 2021 lecture is entitled “Still Climbing the Hill: Intersectional Reflections on Brown and Beyond” and will be delivered by Lori Patton Davis, professor of higher education and student affairs at Ohio State University, and an influential scholar on critical race theory and African Americans in higher education. The Annual Brown Lecture in Education Research commemorates the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education and is designed to feature the important role of research in advancing understanding of equality and equity in education. Registration and more information on the event are available on the AERA website.

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