Issue 20 (October 12)


Bill Riley to Retire as Director of NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research

On September 30, William T. Riley, Associate Director for Behavioral and Social Science Research (BSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), announced his retirement from NIH at the end of December 2021. OBSSR Deputy Director Christine Hunter will take over as Acting Director position until a permanent replacement is named.

Riley, who has led BSSR efforts at NIH for the past seven years, has been a tremendous proponent of the social and behavioral sciences through his previous roles at NIH including in the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Riley will be the featured presenter during COSSA’s upcoming October Headlines, when he will discuss a report on Opportunities in Basic Behavioral and Social Science Research and discuss prospects for the future of BSSR at NIH.

COSSA thanks Bill for his years of service in supporting our sciences and look forward to working with Christine to continue supporting BSSR at NIH.

COSSA to Co-Sponsor University of Maryland 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.

October Headlines to Feature Deep Dive on Opportunities in the Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences at NIH with Outgoing OBSSR Director

COSSA members can sign up for our monthly Headlines webchat to catch up on the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month. October’s webinar will feature a deep dive discussion with Dr. William T. Riley, Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who will share findings from the recent NIH Advisory Committee Working Group report, Trans-NIH Research Opportunities in the Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization can register for the webchat here.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Francis S. Collins Nominated to Lead the NIH (July 13, 2009)

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 July 8, the White House announced the nomination of Francis S. Collins as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Collins replaces Raynard S. Kington who was thanked by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for his service as Acting Director…

The long-rumored nomination of the former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has been expected by the scientific community. In the release announcing Collins’ nomination, President Obama stated that “The National Institutes of Health stands as a model when it comes to science and research. My administration is committed to promoting scientific integrity and pioneering scientific research and I am confident that Dr. Francis Collins will lead the NIH to achieve these goals. Dr. Collins is one of the top scientists in the world, and his groundbreaking work has changed the very ways we consider our health and examine disease. I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.”

Collins, who stepped down in the summer of 2008 to work on writing projects and other professional opportunities, also worked on the Obama Administration’s transition team. He is a physician-geneticist noted for his leadership of the Human Genome Project and as Director of NHGRI from 1993-2008. Collins has a longstanding interest in the interface between science and faith, and has written about this in The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. He has just completed a new book on personalized medicine, The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine, scheduled for publication in early 2010. He has B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Virginia, a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Yale University, and an M.D. with Honors from the University of North Carolina. Prior to coming to NIH in 1993, he spent nine years on the faculty of the University of Michigan, where he was an investigator supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007…

Collins’ nomination needs the consent of the Senate in a confirmation process that may take some time

Read more from this issue.

Congress Puts Off Decisions on Spending, Debt Limit; Senate May Begin Working Through Appropriations Bills

Lawmakers kicked off fiscal year (FY) 2022 by enacting temporary measures to keep the government functioning while negotiations continue: a continuing resolution (CR) to fund government until December 3 and a short-term increase on the federal borrowing limit to avoid default, with plans to revisit the debt limit in December. Congressional leaders have also yet to make measurable progress on a spending package through the reconciliation process (see previous coverage of the House’s proposals). With immediate crises resolved until December, the Senate Appropriations Committee may begin to work through proposals for FY 2022 regular appropriations bills. The Senate committee has so far only completed work on three of its 12 annual appropriations bills, while the House Appropriations Committee passed all of theirs over the summer (see COSSA’s analysis). You can follow all of COSSA’s coverage of the FY 2022 appropriations process here.

House Subcommittees Hold Hearing on Balancing Open Science and U.S. Research Security

On October 5, the Subcommittee on Investigations & Oversight and Subcommittee on Research & Technology within the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (SST) held a joint hearing focused on maintaining the critical balance between securing the U.S. research enterprise and openness and international collaboration, especially concerning the requirements facing foreign scientists who perform research at U.S. institutions. Witnesses included Co-Chair of the National Science, Technology, and Security Roundtable at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) Dr. Maria Zuber; Director of Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Candice Wright; Inspector General of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Allison Lerner; and Professor of Physics at Temple University Dr. Xiaoxing Xi.

Investigations and Oversight Chair Bill Foster (D-IL), Ranking Member Jay Obernolte (R-CA), Research and Technology Chair Haley Stevens (D-MI), and Ranking Member Michael Waltz (R-FL) all acknowledged the risks of illegal research activities including espionage by geopolitical rivals such as China yet asserted the importance of protecting the rights of foreign scientists working in the U.S. and making the U.S. an attractive place to perform research for foreign scientists. Much of the discussion was dedicated to clarifying the procedures for researchers in the U.S. regarding propriety of foreign collaborations, including harmonizing disclosure requirements across federal agencies and simplifying the disclosure process. Another major topic of discussion was the role of law enforcement agencies and past incidents of wrongful arrests of Chinese-born scientists, including Dr. Xi, and necessary changes that should be made to protect researchers from racial profiling (more background on racial profiling concerns can be read in a previous COSSA Hot Topic).

Witness testimonies and a recording of the hearing are available on the SST Committee website.

Biden’s PCAST Holds First Meeting

Just days after members were named to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) (see previous coverage), the Council held its first meeting on September 28 and 29. The first meeting featured speakers who focused on two broad themes: (1) Strengthening US Science & Technology Global Leadership for the 21st Century and (2) The State of US Preparedness & Public Health as Revealed by the Pandemic. During discussions of US public health preparedness, both PCAST members and presenters alike emphasized the need for research in social and behavioral sciences to better shape how we respond to future public health crises. Recordings from both days are available here.

PCAST’s next meeting, which will be held on October 18 and 19, will focus on Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment. The meeting will be broadcast on the PCAST website.

Search for U.S. Chief Statistician Reopened

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has reopened the vacancy announcement for the Chief Statistician of the United States. The post has been vacant since the retirement of former Chief Statistician Nancy Potok at the end of 2019. The Chief Statistician oversees OMB’s Statistical Policy and Science Branch and is responsible for implementing cross-agency data and statistics policies, including the Federal Data Strategy and the implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. The window for applications closes on November 4.

Francis Collins Stepping Down as NIH Director

On October 5, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Francis Collins announced his intent to step down from his position by the end of the year. Collins has indicated he would continue to work at NIH within the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) after his tenure ends.

Collins, who took the helm of the agency in 2009 after 15 years of service as the director of NHGRI, is notable for being the longest serving presidentially appointed NIH director and for serving presidents from both major parties. In addition, Collins oversaw massive increases in the agency’s budget over his tenure and established many of the agency’s flagship research programs such as the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, the Helping to End Addiction Long-Term (HEAL) Initiative, and Cancer Moonshot Initiative. In recent years, Collins has been instrumental in galvanizing federal research programs addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and has been a vocal advocate for the proposed establishment of an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) within NIH (see previous COSSA coverage for more details).

The NIH director is a presidentially appointed position and requires Senate confirmation. While a successor to Collins has not yet been nominated by the White House, it is likely that Principal Deputy Director Larry Tabak would become Acting Director in the interim. The announcement can be read in full on the NIH website.

Academies Panel on Advancing DEI in STEM Organizations Seeking Nominations

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) is accepting nominations for an interdisciplinary study committee to “review the literature on bias and systemic racism in STEM workplaces; approaches to increase racial and ethnic diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in STEM organizations (e.g., universities, non-profit organizations, and industry); and offer policies and best practices for anti-racism and DEI initiatives, as well as outline goals for relevant future research.” Nominations are sought with expertise in social psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, sociology, history, business, human resources, diversity science, public policy, and higher education. More information about the consensus study is available on the National Academies website. Nominations must be submitted by October 20, 2021.

University of Chicago Conference to Highlight Social Science Partnerships for Policymaking

The University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy will be hosting a hybrid virtual/in-person conference, “Creating Social Change Through Public-Private Partnerships.” The event will explore how a “new, more action-oriented social science can help solve social problems by partnering with government agencies, NGOs and private-sector firms.” The agenda will feature expert practitioners from Los Angeles, Baltimore, Washington DC, and Chicago who will speak to the ways they engaged research insights to advance policy changes related to housing, education, health care, criminal justice, and the environment. More details are available on the event’s website. The event is open to the public, but participants must register by October 20. More information is available here.


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