Issue 22 (November 9)


Evidence Advisory Committee Recommends Establishment of a National Data Service

The Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building (ACDEB) released its first report on October 29. The Committee was created by the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (“Evidence Act,” see previous coverage) and given two years to make recommendations for promoting evidence-building in the federal government, including evaluating the need for and value of a potential National Secure Data Service (NSDS) to facilitate linking data from across the federal government.

The ACDEB report affirms the need for the establishment of a NSDS and outlines a broad vision for such a service as a “quasi- or non-governmental entity that is sponsored by a federal statistical agency with the following key attributes: (1) transparency and trust; (2) accessibility; (3) independence; (4) legal responsibilities to acquire, protect, and link data that support and enhance the value of data for evidence building ; (5) scalable functionality; (6) sustainability; (7) oversight and accountability; and (8) intergovernmental support.” The report acknowledges that dedicated resources will be needed to support such an endeavor, including potentially passing legislation to establish it. The ACDEB Report also makes seven near-term recommendations as next steps toward establishing a data service:

  1. Promulgate draft guidance and regulations required under the Evidence Act.
  2. Appoint a Chief Statistician of the United States and elevate this position within the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
  3. Establish clear procedures for public and stakeholder engagement on data standards for intergovernmental, interagency, or intra-agency data sets.
  4. Request increased funding to support implementation of the Federal Data Strategy and Evidence Act in the fiscal year (FY) 2023 budget request.
  5. Establish a pilot program that demonstrates the value of streamlining data sharing and increasing coordination.
  6. Publish case studies of uses of privacy-preserving technologies.
  7. Develop a comprehensive communication and education strategy on evidence-building priorities.

The Committee was given two years to meet its charge, and the report notes that ACDEB will devote its second and final year to developing recommendations for operationalizing the NSDS. COSSA will continue to report on the work of the Committee as it moves forward.

November Headlines to Feature Deep Dive on Funding Opportunities from the W.T. Grant Foundation

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. November’s webinar will feature a deep dive discussion with Vivian Tsang and Lauren Supplee of the William T. Grant Foundation, who will share information on funding opportunities for social and behavioral scientists. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization can register for the webchat here.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: NIH Behavioral and Social Science Research Office Emerges from Conference (May 31, 1993)

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 version of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Reauthorization bill that recently emerged from a joint House-Senate conference committee was adopted by the House on May 25 by a 290-130 vote. It is expected that the bill will pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Clinton in the coming weeks.

As reported in the May 17 issue of Update, the bill establishes an Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research within NIH. As stated in the report accompanying the legislation, “the initial responsibility of the new Office will be the preparation of a special report to the Congress identifying those specific activities within the national research institutes which represent the NIH’s behavioral and social science research portfolio. The report will encompass both intramural and extramural research projects supported in fiscal year 1993. In preparing the report, the Conferees have directed that a standardized definition of “‘behavioral and social science research’ be established and applied uniformly to the research portfolios of each national research institute.”

The report further states that in developing this definition, “the Director of the Office is expected to consult with professional research organizations with expertise in behavioral and social science research.” COSSA anticipates being a part of that process.[…]

Read more from this issue.

Infrastructure Bill Complete; Funding and Reconciliation Bills Remain

Congress has its work cut out for it as we head into the holiday season. With a limited number of working days left before the first session of the 117th Congress ends, time is short to pass a $2 trillion reconciliation package and complete work on the fiscal year (FY) 2022 appropriations bills. Of course, this is the time of year when deals are struck and efforts that appeared out of reach only months ago somehow find the finish line, as we saw last week with the passage of sweeping infrastructure legislation.

On November 5, the House of Representatives passed the long-awaited Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684), handing a major win to the Biden Administration. The President is expected to sign the measure into law next week when Congress returns, likely in a Rose Garden ceremony, to celebrate major new investments in the nation’s roads, bridges, rail, airports, and electric grid. The 1,000+ page bill includes a range of initiatives, including a few of interest to the research community.

Transportation Research.  The bill establishes the newest federal government “ARPA,” the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Infrastructure (ARPA-I) within the Department of Transportation (see COSSA’s previous coverage on other “ARPAs” across the federal government). ARPA-I will be tasked with advancing the nation’s transportation infrastructure by developing innovative science and technology solutions, which may include research grants to university researchers. The infrastructure bill also authorizes a new Advanced Transportation Research Initiative that will allow the Transportation Secretary to accept and fund unsolicited research proposals—including from university researchers—on topics of interest to the department. The Secretary is directed to coordinate such research activities with other federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation.

Transportation Statistics.  The infrastructure package includes a five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, which authorizes funding for federal programs related to highways, roads and bridges, public transportation, and railroads, among other areas. The reauthorization bill sets funding levels for the Department of Transportation’s principal statistical agency, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which is funded by an allocation from the Federal Highway Administration rather than a direct appropriation. The bill lays out incremental increases to the base BTS budget, raising it from $26 million in FY 2022 to $27 million by FY 2026. The small increase represents the first growth in BTS’s funding level since FY 2014. In addition to this relatively minor increase, another section of the package, the Surface Transportation Investment Act allows Congress to allocate an additional $10 million a year to BTS from FY 2022 through FY 2026. Whether appropriators will take advantage of this authorization remains to be seen, however.

DHS Research.  The bill authorizes $157.5 million for “Research and Development” at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) through FY 2026. This authorization would be used for infrastructure security and resilience research and may be used for such issues as risk assessment and violence prevention surrounding critical infrastructure, among other research questions.

Energy Data. The package includes a fairly lengthy list of new activities to be undertaken by the Energy Information Administration, the Department of Energy’s principal statistical agency. These include enhancing and expanding data collection on the energy sector, energy consumption, electric vehicles, energy-related mineral demand, energy-sector modeling, and carbon abatement.  However, no authorization of additional appropriations is included in the bill to support these efforts.

Up Next: Reconciliation.  With the infrastructure bill now in the rearview mirror (no pun intended), Congress will attempt to find common ground on the $2 trillion Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376), the reconciliation package containing funding for social safety net programs and climate change initiatives. A vote in the House could come next week; however, its prospects in the Senate are less clear. Still Waiting: FY 2022 Funding.  Still out there for Congress to complete are the twelve FY 2022 appropriations bills. Lawmakers are currently facing a December 3 deadline, which is when the continuing resolution (CR) expires. It is becoming increasingly likely that additional CRs will be needed to complete work this year. You can find COSSA’s full coverage of FY 2022 funding here.

NIH to Host 2021 Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival

On November 18 and 19, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) will host the 2021 NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival. The virtual festival brings together researchers from around NIH and will feature four plenary sessions. Among other presenters, Director of the National Institute on Nursing Research (NINR) Shannon N. Zenk will serve as a keynote presenter and outgoing OBSSR Director Bill Riley will deliver remarks on “the State of Behavioral and Social Science Research at the NIH.”

Registration details and more information about the festival may be found on the OBSSR website.

Robert Santos Confirmed as Census Director

On November 4, the Senate voted 58-35 to confirm Robert Santos as the Director of the Census Bureau. Santos is currently the President of the American Statistical Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member. Upon his confirmation, Santos became the first person of color to lead the Census Bureau. Santos was nominated by President Biden in April to succeed Trump-appointee Steven Dillingham, who resigned in January after complaints from whistleblowers came to light (see previous coverage). Ron Jarmin has been Acting Director of the Bureau since Dillingham’s departure.

Census Bureau Seeking to Extend and Expand Business Pulse Survey

Building on the success of the Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey, a continuous, frequently-updated survey instituted to measure the impact of the pandemic on small businesses, the Census Bureau is seeking public comment on a plan to establish a new Business Pulse Survey that will extend the existing survey sample to include all businesses. The Bureau is asking for three-year approval for the Business Pulse Survey, which will be a “continuous near real time data publication [that] will provide a baseline of the U.S. economy and will measure change as a result of current and future economic shocks.” While the survey will be developed and implemented in stages, according to the Census Bureau, “At full scope, the Business Pulse Survey will allow for data collection from businesses across most non-farm sectors of the U.S. economy, while producing statistics on employer and non-employer businesses across all employer size classes, as well as geographically detailed data on the fifty U.S. states, Washington DC, and the U.S. Island Areas.” Input on the Business Pulse Survey is requested by January 10, 2022. More information is available in the Federal Register notice.

New NASEM Panel on Assessing the Impact of Federal Policies on Health Equity Seeking Nominations

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) will convene a study committee to develop an “evidence-based, non-partisan Review of Federal Policies that Contribute to Racial and Ethnic Health Inequities, including those policies that impact the social determinants of health, as well as potential solutions.” NASEM is seeking volunteers to serve on the panel with expertise in health and social policy, social determinants of health (transportation, education, housing), health disparities, minority populations (racial and ethnic minorities), public health, health economics, health care, public health law, ethics, financing, criminal justice, environmental health, business, and urban planning. Nominations may be submitted by filling out this form by November 19, 2021.

Nominations Sought for 2022 Golden Goose Award

Nominations are now open for the 2022 Golden Goose Award. The Golden Goose Award honor federally funded research that may sound odd, obscure, or serendipitous, but ends up having a major impact on society.  Many social and behavioral scientists have been award recipients in the past and honored at the annual ceremony and reception in Washington, DC.

Nominations are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year, but for the best chance for consideration for the 2022 awards, nominations should be submitted by December 17, 2021. More information and the nomination form can be found on the Golden Goose website.


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