Issue 24 (December 14)


Larry Tabak Named Acting Director for NIH, Questions Remain Regarding Presidential Nomination

On December 9, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced that Larry Tabak, current principal deputy director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), would take leadership of NIH as acting director beginning on December 20. Current NIH director Francis Collins announced his intent to step down earlier this year after 15 years of service in the role as the agency’s director (see previous coverage for more details). Tabak has been a mainstay at NIH, serving as director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) for a decade prior to his naming as principal deputy director of NIH in 2010.

President Biden has not yet named a nominee for NIH director and many questions remain regarding who may be nominated. Since the position of NIH director requires a presidential nomination and Senate confirmation, Tabak is expected to remain at the helm of the agency until a permanent successor is named and confirmed. The announcement can be read in full on the HHS website.


To cap off our celebration of COSSA’s 40th anniversary, we are sharing these excerpts from past milestones. You can read all of the articles we’ve highlighted this year here.

COSSA Celebrates 10th Anniversary as Advocacy Group (June 10, 1991)

The Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) celebrated its tenth anniversary with a day-long series of events on June 3. It was in May 1981 that social and behavioral science funding at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and at other federal agencies came under attack by the Reagan administration, mobilizing a number of the professional associations in these disciplines to counter this threat. What began as an experiment in creating an advocacy group to coordinate that response has led to an organization which still exists ten years later to promote attention to and federal funding for the social and behavioral sciences.

Current Executive Director Howard J. Silver, who has been with COSSA for eight of its ten years, led off the celebration with a brief review of the organization’s history from the battles in the early days, such as the victory on the Winn Amendment, to the current effort to create a separate directorate for the social, economic and psychological sciences at NSF. He introduced past and current COSSA Presidents Victor Rosenblum and Joseph Grimes.

Speakers Weigh Social Science’s Impact, Celebrate 20 Years of COSSA (November 5, 2001)

“A fiery intellectual agenda” is reflected in the COSSA’s 20th anniversary events, remarked keynote speaker David Ward at COSSA’s annual meeting October 29 in Washington, D.C. Over 80 social and behavioral science researchers, government officials association leaders, and representatives of COSSA’s members converged to celebrate the influence of social and behavioral science on public policy and look to the future.

Originally booked for the Library of Congress, the meeting was moved to the Hyatt on Capitol Hill which, unlike the Congressional buildings, was not closed for anthrax clean-up.

Ward, President of the American Council on Education, kicked off the all-day meeting by referring to the contents of Fostering Human Progress: Social and Behavioral Science Research Contributions to Public Policy, produced by COSSA for the occasion.

COSSA Holds 30th Anniversary Colloquium and Celebration (November 10, 2011)

On November 2 and 3, the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) held its 30th Anniversary Colloquium and Celebration in Washington, DC. The largest audience in COSSA meeting history heard talks from key federal officials and distinguished social scientists.

The day began with a welcome from COSSA Executive Director Howard J. Silver in which he explained the organization’s origins as an advocacy group – the need to fight severe cuts proposed by the Reagan Administration in 1981 to the social and behavioral science budgets at the National Science Foundation and elsewhere in the federal government. He also noted that in the subsequent 30 years, COSSA has dealt with five presidential administration and sixteen congresses. Tom Mann of the Brookings Institution, who served as the first chair of COSSA’s Executive Committee, gave the keynote address examining the political landscape of the last thirty years. He also congratulated COSSA for becoming “a serious Washington player” through its advocacy for the social sciences.

FY 2022 Bills Delayed until February, Build Back Better Act Inches Forward

On December 3, the House and Senate agreed to the terms of a second continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government open and operating until February 18, 2022. Although fiscal year (FY) 2022 officially began more than two months ago on October 1, Congress has yet to complete negotiations on any of its 12 annual appropriations bills. The latest CR kicks the can into next year, allowing lawmakers time to focus on other year-end priorities. COSSA’s full coverage of FY 2022 appropriations is available here.

In the category of “must-pass” legislation are the annual defense authorization bill, which includes funding authorizations for DOD’s research programs (including in the social and behavioral sciences), and an increase to the federal debt limit. Both of these measures could be resolved as soon as this week.

In addition, the Senate continues to inch forward on the FY 2022 budget reconciliation bill (H.R. 5376), also known as the Build Back Better Act. This massive package containing funding for social safety net programs and climate change initiatives, as well as some funding for federal research agencies, would provide an infusion of new funds in FY 2022 (as well as multi-year funding) in addition to the annual appropriations noted above. The House passed its version of the bill in November, knowing that the Senate is likely to proposed significant changes in order to secure passage given the chamber’s razor thin Democratic majority. The reconciliation process—a parliamentary procedure typically used to achieve changes in law related to spending or revenue—can be a time-consuming endeavor, often requiring the work of multiple Congressional authorizing committees (as opposed to the appropriations committees), but in the end requires only a simple majority in the Senate to pass. Congressional leaders are hoping to enact the bill by Christmas. COSSA will continue to report on the process of the Build Back Better Act.

GAO Report Cites Need for Better Police Use-of-Force Data

The Government Accountability Office has released a report assessing the release of data from the Department of Justice (DOJ) related to law enforcement use of force. Overall, the report finds that the Department has not been consistently publishing legally required data on excessive force and that DOJ can do a better job of sharing this information. The report makes note of delays in the release of data produced by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), an issue not limited to use-of-force data (COSSA has written several letters advocating for the timely release of BJS data).  The report recommends that BJS “assess the causes of delays in publishing reports related to law enforcement’s use of force and identify corrective actions to address such delays” and to update its own performance measures to reflect a wider breadth of its publications. In a response to the GAO report, DOJ agreed to take action to address both of these recommendations. The full report is available on the GAO website.

Census Seeking Comment on New “Ask U.S.” Opinion Panel

The Census Bureau is seeking approval for a new nationally representative survey panel called “Ask U.S.,” to be used for “tracking public opinion on a variety of topics of interest to numerous federal agencies and their partners, and for conducting experimentation on alternative question wording and methodological approaches” as well as potentially collecting “nationwide rapid-response data to address emerging data needs.” Public comment is being accepted on the new activity, which will also be coordinated with the Economic Research Service, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, and the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, among other federal partners. According to the Federal Register notice, the new activity will begin with a pilot program of 1,700 people, before scaling up to a full sample size of 17,000. Comments are being accepted on this new activity through February 7, 2022.

NSF Announces Build and Broaden 3.0 Collaborations with Minority-Serving Institutions

The Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting applications for Build and Broaden 3.0, the latest iteration of the collaborative program aiming to support fundamental research and research collaborations at minority-serving institutions (MSIs). Updates on the Build and Broaden program were featured during the SBE Advisory Committee meeting on December 2, with NSF staff providing comments on previous fiscal year awards, updated eligibility criteria for the awards, outreach efforts to tribal-serving institutions, and the creation of a new Program Officer role for Build and Broaden 3.0.

The target due date for Build and Broaden 3.0 applications is March 1, 2022. More information is available on the NSF website.

Participants Sought for NSF-Funded January Bioeconomies Workshop

UIDP is hosting a virtual workshop January 11-12, with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), to bring together an interdisciplinary group of scientists from the public and private sectors who understand and support societal, economic, behavioral, and other challenges and opportunities that arise in developing a bioeconomy ecosystem. The workshop will convene experts from academia, industry, and public and private sectors to explore societal, economic, behavioral, regulatory, and other challenges and opportunities to help design bioeconomy innovation hubs, such as Regional Innovation Accelerators proposed by NSF, and develop a bioeconomy ecosystem that spurs innovation, entrepreneurship, economic growth, and social wellbeing.

According to the website, “There is a need to understand societal, economic, behavioral, and other challenges and opportunities that arise in developing a bioeconomy ecosystem, and how these factors interact in spurring innovation through bioeconomy innovation hubs, encouraging entrepreneurship, and growth of a bioeconomy.”

Participation in the workshop is by invitation only; therefore, those interested should submit their names and CVs to Michael Brizek, program director, at no later than December 23 for best consideration.

Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment Releases Year Two Annual Report

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment released its annual report summarizing findings and progress through its second year of work. The Action Collaborative, which was organized in 2019 by more than sixty colleges, universities, and research institutions, is charged with developing evidence-based strategies to prevent sexual harassment in higher education settings. The report describes the progress made across its four main goals: raising awareness about sexual harassment, elevating evidence-based policies to reduce and prevent sexual harassment, contributing to a shared research agenda on sexual harassment across member institutions, and developing standards for measuring progress on sexual harassment issues in higher education. The report also includes a summary of efforts made by Action Collaborative participants to prevent, respond to, and remediate instances of sexual harassment and evaluate institutional strategies. The report is available on the National Academies website.

PAA Holds Congressional Briefing on the Demographic Implications of Climate Change

On December 6, the Population Association of America (PAA), a Governing Member of COSSA, organized a virtual Congressional briefing titled “Braving the Storm: How Climate Change Will Affect How and Where We Live.” The briefing, which was moderated by Chair of the PAA Government and Public Affairs Committee Vida Maralani, featured presentations on research reflecting the impact of climate change on international and domestic demographic changes. The first presentation, by Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue of Cornell University, highlighted several demographic implications for climate change and its impact on the Sahel region on the African continent. The second presentation, by Sarah Curran of the University of Washington, used a retrospective lens to discuss the short-term and long-term impacts of hurricanes on population change in U.S. counties since 1970. The third presentation, by Mathew Hauer of Florida State University, attempts to forecast how climate change may impact populations on the U.S. coasts throughout the remainder of the 21st century. A recording of the event is available here.


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