Issue 23 (November 23)


NIH to Hold Series of Listening Sessions on UNITE Initiative and Racial Equity

Throughout the end of 2021 and early 2022, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be holding a series of listening sessions to gather stakeholder feedback on achieving racial equity as part of the agency’s UNITE Initiative. The UNITE Initiative, which was launched by NIH in March 2021, is intended to analyze and address the agency’s practices to better foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in the biomedical research enterprise (see previous COSSA coverage for more details). A full list of the upcoming sessions and registration information is available here.

COSSA Urges Congress to Complete FY 2022 Funding

COSSA has issued an action alert calling on advocates to urge their Members of Congress to prioritize completing the FY 2022 appropriations process this year, rather than passing long-term stopgap measures that could further delay funding into next year. The current continuing resolution (CR) expires on December 3. While CRs avert government-wide shutdowns, they also freeze funding for federal agencies at current levels. Operating under funding uncertainty creates inefficiencies for critical federal science and statistical agencies, limits their ability to conduct long-term planning, and creates uncertainty for federally funded researchers. You can take action now by visiting COSSA’s action center.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: 21st Century Cures Act Becomes Law (December 13, 2016)

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.

In a display of bipartisanship, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act. The House overwhelmingly passed an updated version of the bill (H.R. 34) on November 30 by a vote of 392 to 26. On December 7, the Senate followed suit with its consideration of the bill and passed it by a recorded vote of 94 to 5. President Obama signed the bill on December 13. The comprehensive bill provides an infusion of funding for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), directs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve drugs and devices with greater urgency, provides resources to states to assist in fighting the opioid epidemic, and provides a boost for mental health care.

The bill reauthorizes the NIH for FY 2018 through FY 2020, including $34.851 billion in FY 2018, $35.585 billion in FY 2019, and $36.472 billion in FY 2020. The nearly thousand-page bill retains the many of the provisions passed by the House in 2015. The most notable change to the revamped bill is the creation of an “NIH Innovation Account” that specifies annual funding levels for the next ten years (2017 -2026), described as a “trust fund” that would have to be approved annually by appropriators. The funding appropriated from the Innovation Account, however, will not count against budget caps. Those funds would be provided via the Prevention and Public Health Fund and Strategic Petroleum Reserves.

The Innovation Account would provide a total of $4.796 billion over ten years (including $352 million in FY 2017) for the following research areas: $1.4 billion for the Precision Medicine Initiative; $1.6 billion for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative (BRAIN); and $1.8 billion to support cancer research. Senate Republicans renamed this portion of the bill to honor Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015. Vice President Biden has been leading the Administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative. The bill would also provide $30 million for NIH in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration for regenerative medicine using adult stem cells.[…]

Read more from this issue.

Cures 2.0 Bill Introduced in the House, Includes RISE Act and ARPA-H Authorization

On November 16, Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced the Cures 2.0 Act, long anticipated legislation aiming to bolster the U.S. biomedical research enterprise. Most notably, the legislation would authorize $6.5 billion for an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), a long-touted Biden Administration priority. Unlike the previously introduced Advanced Research Project Agency-Health (ARPA-H) Act (H.R. 5585) which authorizes $3 billion for an independent ARPA-H within the Department of Health and Human Services, the Cures 2.0 Act would establish ARPA-H within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (see previous coverage for more details).

In addition to the ARPA-H authorization, the Cures 2.0 Act includes the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act, legislation that would authorize relief funding for federal research agencies to help strengthen U.S. research in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The authorization is spread out among several federal research agencies, notably $10 billion for the NIH and $3 billion for the National Science Foundation. Check out COSSA’s full coverage of the RISE Act, including a Headlines webinar from the spring.

The bill text and a summary of the bill can be found in a press release on DeGette’s website.

Applications Being Accepted for Federal Evaluation Fellowships

The Office of Evaluation Sciences (OES) at the General Services Administration is currently accepting applications for 2022 fellowships. OES is a team of applied researchers that works to build insights from the social and behavioral sciences into federal programs. OES designs, implements, and analyzes evidence-based interventions and randomized evaluations. Fellows shape their own high-impact portfolio of work, design and direct projects, and author academic publications. For 2022, applications are being sought for Design Fellows (deadline December 10), Fellows (deadline January 3), and Federal Detailees (deadline January 3). More information about all three positions is available on the OES website.

NIH Holds Annual Behavioral and Social Science Research Festival

On November 18-19, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) held the 2021 Behavioral and Social Science Research Festival, an annual event designed to highlight the contributions of recently funded behavioral and social science projects to health research via presentations by extramural and NIH scientists from across the spectrum of disciplines. The two-day event was held virtually.

The event hosted presentations on a variety of behavioral and social science topics, with heavy emphasis on health equity among minority populations, mental and cognitive health, and behavioral responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s festival also recognized outgoing OBSSR Director Dr. Bill Riley, who will retire at the end of this year and delivered remarks on the “State of Behavioral and Social Science Research at NIH.” In his brief remarks, Dr. Riley stated that “it has been humbling and overwhelming to be in charge of such a wide array of research that continues to make advances in public health.”

Recordings of the festival will be available on the NIH Videocast website shortly.

New Gun Violence Prevention Research Group Seeks Nominations

The Gun Violence Prevention Research Roundtable, a new national coalition funded by the Joyce Foundation and administered by the American Academy of Pediatrics, is seeking nominations for members to serve on its advisory committee. The Roundtable will be focused on educating policymakers about the need for federal investments in gun violence prevention research and seeks advisory committee members who can help integrate the expertise of the research community into its work. The group is seeking nominees with expertise in injury prevention, public health research, public policy research, gun violence prevention, clinical medicine, suicide prevention, primary prevention of crime, community violence intervention, and other related fields. More information is available here. Nominations should be submitted by December 10, 2021.

SSRC Launches Global Consortium on Misinformation and Health Research

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) has launched a new initiative, the Mercury Project, a global research consortium focused on combatting mis- and disinformation in public health and finding interventions that support the spread and uptake of accurate health information. The $10 million initiative will provide three-year research grants “to discover new, evidence-based, data-driven tools, methods, and interventions to counter mis- and disinformation and to support the spread and uptake of accurate health information.” More information about the project is available on the SSRC website. Proposals are being accepted on a rolling basis.


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