Issue 21 (October 26)

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Senate Releases Remaining Draft Appropriations Bills, Setting Stage for FY 2022 Negotiations

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee released drafts of nine of its annual appropriations bills. While fiscal year (FY) 2022 officially began on October 1, the Senate Appropriations Committee has so far this year only completed work on three of its FY 2022 bills; none of the Senate bills have yet been voted on by the full Senate. Last month, Congress enacted a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government open until December 3, providing additional time for both chambers to complete their work.

Over in the House, the Appropriations Committee advanced all twelve of its annual spending bills over the summer (see previous coverage), with nine of its bills successfully passing the chamber. This includes two bills important to the social and behavioral science community: the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education Appropriations Bill and the Agriculture Appropriations Bill (see COSSA’s analysis).

As noted in previous coverage, the FY 2022 appropriations bills are in many ways a stark contrast to the spending measures we have seen over the last several years, for a few reasons. First, the spending caps that have placed limits on discretionary spending over the last decade expired in FY 2021 and new ones have not yet been set. Second, it is common to see major new investments in the first year of a new Presidential Administration, especially when the House and Senate are of the same party. While in many cases the House and Senate bills do not provide the President with the full amount of requested funds, federal science agencies would still see major budget increases nearly across the board in both proposals.

It is likely that caps on discretionary spending will return in some form in the near future, leaving many to believe FY 2022 is the best opportunity to achieve long-desired increases and major new investments, such as establishing a new agency—ARPA-H—possibly within the National Institutes of Health and standing up a new research directorate at the National Science Foundation focused on technology, innovation, and partnerships. 

As noted, Congress has given itself until December 3 to complete its work on the FY 2022 process. However, given the limited number of legislative days remaining and other issues competing for time—including but not limited to sweeping infrastructure legislation and a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package—the outlook for completing FY 2022 appropriations bills by early December seems ambitious. Before negotiations to reconcile the differences between the chambers’ spending bills can begin, Congressional leaders must first agree to top-line funding amounts for each bill. It is possible that an additional CR or series of short-term CRs could be needed to complete the FY 2022 process.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the Senate’s FY 2022 funding bills for federal agencies and programs important to the social and behavioral science research community.

“Why Social Science” Matters for AI Research

The latest Why Social Science? post comes from Corinna Turbes, Policy Director for the Data Foundation, who writes about the need for better data to enable social scientists to conduct artificial intelligence (AI) research.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Rep. Price Looks at 20 Years of Change in Congress (January 13, 1989)

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.

The Consortium held its seventh annual meeting in Washington on December 13, with representatives of its member associations and many of its affiliates… As luncheon speaker, Rep. David E. Price (D-NC), a political scientist elected to the House from North Carolina in 1986, noted that he has observed striking changes within Congress over the last 20 years. He said his comparative insights have developed from his days as a legislative aide in the late 1960s when his dissertation research provided him the opportunity to interview a third of the Senate on the topic of policy-making.

Since those days, Price said Congress has changed in many respects, the greatest of which has been its use of the budget process itself. Most notable has been the “excessive concentration on budget politics” to the exclusion of policy matters. Price used 1987 as an illustration. That year, the spending blueprint Reagan sent to the Hill “wasn’t a serious budget,” and Congress had to start over, putting a revised Gramm-Rudman spending-cap mechanism in place. The entire budgetary process was stalled, Price said, and it took the Stock Market Crash in October 1987 to bring the administration to the negotiating table…

Read more from this issue.

ARPA-H Authorization Bill Introduced in the House

On October 15, Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Health Subcommittee within the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, introduced the Advanced Research Project Agency-Health (ARPA-H) Act (H.R. 5585), a bill authorizing the agency that has been a key priority in the Biden Administration’s budget for fiscal year (FY) 2022 (see previous coverage). Notably, the bill would not establish ARPA-H within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as the White House and some appropriators in both chambers have proposed, but rather within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), setting up a potential conflict between appropriators and authorizers on where to house the new agency.

Some key items in the legislation include:

  • An authorization of $3 billion for a new Health Advanced Research and Development fund to support the work of ARPA-H and a requirement for future ARPA-H budget requests to be delivered separately from the rest of the HHS budget. (See the related article for information on the funding levels proposed by House and Senate Appropriations Committees.)
  • The establishment of the ARPA-H director as a presidentially-appointed position with a five-year term. The director would be responsible for approving project funding and coordinating with other federal research agencies.
  • The establishment of an ARPA-H Interagency Advisory Committee comprising of leadership from other major health and research agencies.
  • Language emphasizing the agency’s role in addressing health equity and disease burden, as well as the “high risk, high reward” nature of the research to be funded.

A press release on the bill’s introduction is available on Rep. Eshoo’s website.

Rep. David Price, Longtime Social Science Champion, Announces Retirement

Representative David Price (D-NC), one of Congress’s only social scientists, announced that he will not seek reelection in 2022. Price was first elected to Congress in 1987 after serving as a professor of political science at Duke University and has been a vocal champion of federally funded research and the social and behavioral sciences in particular over the course of his more than 30 years in the House. He memorably rose to the defense of the National Science Foundation’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) after attempts to defund it in 2014. Price’s retirement will leave open a seat representing North Carolina’s Research Triangle area, home to some of the nation’s most prominent research institutions.

OSTP Launches “Challenge” for Advancing Equity in STEM

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has announced an open invitation for ideas to improve equity in science and technology. Input is being gathered through an “Ideation Challenge,” which allows anyone to offer insight into the central question, “How can we guarantee all Americans can fully participate in, and contribute to, science and technology?” While there is no winner or prize, ideas will be evaluated and refined by OSTP for potential incorporation into the White House’s strategy for advancing equity in science and technology. The challenge is open through November 19. More information is available on challenge.gov.

White House Releases 2021 Data Strategy Action Plan

The Federal Data Strategy, a government-wide plan to coordinate and accelerate the use of data in federal policymaking (see previous coverage), released its 2021 Action Plan in October. The plan lays out a set of aspirational milestones for data governance, planning, and infrastructure across federal agencies. Acknowledging the late-in-the-year release and the context of a presidential transition year, the document recognizes that agencies “may only begin” working towards the targets described in the plan by the end of the year. The Action Plan describes successes and lessons learned in 2020 and sets out a set of 11 actions for 2021, divided into agency actions and cross-agency actions (“community of practice and shared solution actions”).

Agency Actions

  • ACTION 1: Gather and Assess Data Identified for Priority Agency Questions
  • ACTION 2: Mature Data Governance
  • ACTION 3: Data and Infrastructure Maturity
  • ACTION 4: Increase Staff Data Skills
  • ACTION 5: Publish Agency Open Data Plans
  • ACTION 6: Enhance Quality of Data Inventories

Community of Practice and Shared Solution Actions

  • ACTION 7: Artificial Intelligence & Automation
  • ACTION 8: Government-wide Dashboards and Infrastructure
  • ACTION 9: Data Skills Workforce Development
  • ACTION 10: Interagency Wildland Fire Fuels Data Management
  • ACTION 11: Geospatial Data Practice

The full Action Plan is available on the data strategy website.

PCAST Holds Meeting on Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment

On October 18 and 19, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) held a public meeting focusing on climate, energy, and the environment, just weeks after the first PCAST meeting of the Biden Administration was held (see previous coverage).  The meeting consisted of several presentations on various aspects of climate and energy policy including the current state of climate policy and research, the Biden Administration’s positions on climate policy, previous Federal activities addressing climate, the development of new climate and energy technologies, and the impact of climate change on national security. Speakers throughout the sessions highlighted the role and value of the social and behavioral sciences in addressing questions on how we respond to climate impacts. Recordings of both days is available on the White House website.

National Academies Convenes First Meeting of Strategic Council for Research Excellence, Integrity, and Trust

On October 25, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) held the inaugural meeting of the Strategic Council for Research Excellence, Integrity, and Trust. This new body, which was announced in July 2021, is comprised of leaders from academia, government, and the private sector and has been charged with identifying ways to promote the health and integrity of the U.S. research enterprise amid challenges such as administrative burden, conflicts of interest, and distrust in science. The featured speaker during the open meeting was Kei Koizumi, Principal Deputy Director for Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), who discussed the Biden Administration’s actions so far to address scientific integrity. Koizumi cited the work of the Task Force on Scientific Integrity, a federal body formed early in President Biden’s tenure (see previous coverage for more details) but acknowledged the need for more coordination on issues related to research ethics, diversity within the research enterprise, and the public perception of science.

A recording of the meeting is available on the NASEM website.

National Academies Seeking Nominations for Study on Reducing Intergenerational Poverty

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is accepting nominations for members to serve on a study committee on Policies and Programs to Reduce Intergenerational Poverty. The committee will “analyze the evidence on key determinants of entrenched poverty and the effectiveness of programs designed to address those determinants to identify policies and programs with the potential to reduce long-term, intergenerational poverty.” Members are being sought with expertise in local, state, and federal policies related to safety net programs, early childhood, k-12 education, job training, and structural racism in the fields of public policy, public health, pediatrics, economics, education, developmental psychology, sociology, demography, political science, criminal justice, neuroscience, child welfare, social psychology, and social work. More information is available on the National Academies website. Nominations should be submitted by October 29.

Michael A. Méndez Delivers 2021 David Lecture on Climate Justice

On October 14, Dr. Michael A. Méndez delivered the 2021 Henry and Bryna David Lecturer. The annual lecture is a program of National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) Division of Behavioral and Social Science and Education (DBASSE). A professor of Environmental Planning and Policy from the University of California-Irvine, Dr. Méndez spoke on the prevalence of climate-related disasters, specifically the wildfires affecting California. In his lecture, Méndez describes his research that finds the negative impacts of climate disasters to public health, housing, and employment disproportionately affect low-income and marginalized populations, citing some of the conditions endured by undocumented immigrants and Indigenous migrants in California in the wake of historic wildfires.

“Our research shows that differences in human vulnerability to wildfires stem from a range of social, economic, historical, and political factors,” stated Mendez, later noting, “existing inequalities are exacerbated during a disaster. This is primarily because there is no social safety net for undocumented migrants before disasters happen. If we really want to tackle disaster risk reduction, it starts with the social integration of migrants before disaster happens. To move forward, we need more inclusive disaster planning.” The Henry and Bryna David Lecture honors a leading innovator in the behavioral and social sciences who is invited to deliver the eponymous lecture and publish an article in Issues in Science and Technology magazine based on that lecture. A video recording of the Henry and Bryna David Lecture is available on the National Academies website.

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