Volume 40 (2021)

Early Days of Biden Administration Marked by Slew of Executive Actions

Since Inauguration Day, President Biden’s spate of executive orders and presidential declarations have focused primarily on undoing many of the damaging actions of the last Administration. As expected, several actions were taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic, such as mandating mask-wearing in federal facilities, appointment of a COVID-19 Response Coordinator, and providing economic relief to individuals and families struggling with unemployment and underemployment, eviction, and other effects of the pandemic. In addition, numerous executive actions directly address the U.S. scientific enterprise and U.S. participation in global scientific efforts. Discussed in this issue are several recent actions taken by the Biden…

Biden Administration Executive Actions: Equity & Inclusion

Another early Biden Administration executive order rescinded various Trump Administration actions that attempted to push back against perceived “political correctness” by actions prohibiting trainings and other activities that touch on white privilege, structural inequality, implicit bias, and other supposedly “divisive” concepts based on decades of social science research. President Biden’s Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government goes beyond simply revoking the Trump Administration policies and instead sets a policy of actively working to improve racial equity government-wide. The Executive Order outlines a systematic approach for accurately assessing “whether agency policies and…

Biden Administration Executive Actions: COVID-19

On January 21, President Biden issued an Executive Order ensuring that the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic would be guided by the best available science and data, further protecting from potential future public health threats. The Executive Order lays out several directives for federal agencies including focusing energy on building public health infrastructure, directing agency heads to share and coordinate COVID-19 data with other agencies, improving federal capacity for data collection practices, and reviewing existing public health data systems for potential areas for improvement. The Department of Health and Human Services is directed to ensure public health data systems…

Biden Administration Executive Actions: Climate Change

In addition to his day-one promise to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, President Biden has also issued executive orders directing federal agencies to review and, where appropriate, take corrective action to address or reverse actions of the Trump Administration that are found to be “harmful to public health, damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest.” On January 27, a detailed order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad was issued. Among other things, the order ensures that “climate considerations” will have a place in U.S. foreign policy and…

Biden Administration Executive Actions: Scientific Integrity

On January 27, President Biden issued a Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking that states the Administration’s policy to “make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data” and affirms that “scientific findings should never be distorted or influenced by political considerations.” The memorandum builds on and updates an Obama Administration Executive Order requiring federal agencies develop scientific integrity policies. President Biden’s memorandum establishes a Task Force on Scientific Integrity that will review existing scientific integrity policies and recommend improvements. It also sets more detailed requirements for what should be included in…

Biden Executive Actions: Federal Workforce

On January 22, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce, which repealed several Trump-era executive actions affecting the civil service. Notably, the executive order revokes the controversial Schedule F excepted service category (see previous COSSA coverage), which would have reclassified some federal employees to be more prone to hiring and firing as if they were political appointees. The executive order is available on the White House website.

Biden Executive Actions: Immigration and Research Security

On January 20, President Biden issued a presidential proclamation ending several orders from the Trump Administration banning certain individuals from traveling to the United States, primarily, individuals from African countries and countries with large Muslim populations. The proclamation also reverses many Trump-era practices used to aggressively tighten immigration such as restrictions on the visa process and the intrusive screening of individuals’ social media accounts. At the same time, the Biden Administration has signaled potential actions related to the security of the U.S. research enterprise (see COSSA’s January 2020 and October 2020 Hot Topics for more info). In particular, the Biden…

Biden Administration Executive Actions: Census

Among the executive orders President Biden signed on his first day in office was an affirmation that Census population counts would reflect the total number of residents in each state—regardless of their immigration or citizenship status. It has been the government’s longstanding practice for Census figures to be based on the “whole number of persons in each state” (as described in the 14th Amendment). However, former President Trump had attempted to change this policy via executive actions to use administrative records to produce citizenship data and to exclude undocumented immigrants from apportionment counts produced by the 2020 Census. President Biden’s…

“Why Social Science?” Focuses on COVID-19 Vaccination

The latest Why Social Science? post comes from the authors of the recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) report “COVID-19 Vaccination Communication: Applying Behavioral and Social Science to Address Vaccine Hesitancy and Foster Vaccine Confidence,” who write about the evidence-informed best practices communities should use when sharing information about the vaccination process for COVID-19. Read it here and subscribe.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: 100th Congress Convenes: Democrats Take Charge; Deficit Still Looms (January 23, 1987)

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 100th Congress was sworn in January 6, 1987. Since then the Senate has organized and begun a series of hearings that make clear the impact of the switch to Democratic control. The House has moved much more slowly to organize and to resume its work. Details of the FY 1988 budget not included in the brief version released on January 5 will be unveiled the week of January 26. The President, burdened…

House Appropriations Leadership Finalized

The House Appropriations Committee recently announced its membership for the 117th Congress, including the naming of Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) as full committee chair and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) as chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee (see below for details). Congressional committees in the House and Senate have been slowly taking shape in recent weeks; however, many committee rosters have yet to be finalized, especially in the Senate where the majority has recently shifted from Republicans to Democrats. We will continue to report on notable new assignments as they are announced. House Appropriations Committee (see majority press release and…

AERA and Spencer Foundation Release Report on COVID-19 Impacts on Doctoral Students and Early Career Scholars

The American Educational Research Association (AERA), a COSSA governing member, and the Spencer Foundation have released a report, Voices from the Field: The Impact of COVID-19 on Early Career Scholars and Doctoral Students, as part of an ongoing effort to assess and address pressing needs facing scholars and doctoral students during the pandemic. The report’s findings are drawn from a series of focus groups conducted in spring 2020 and are organized into seven themes: (1) Research Impact: Disruptions, Delays, and Adaptations; (2) Impact on Teaching: The Need to Be Inventive, Inclusive, and Intentional; (3) Balancing Acts: Negotiating Family, Home, Community,…

Biden Administration Announces Science Team; Alondra Nelson Tapped for New “Science and Society” Role

On January 15, President-Elect Biden announced key members of his administration’s science and technology team. Dr. Eric Lander, a life scientist and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, will be nominated to direct the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and to serve as the President’s Science Advisor. This role will also be elevated to Cabinet level for the first time. Dr. Alondra Nelson, a prominent social scientist and President of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), a COSSA member, will be appointed to a new senior OSTP role: Deputy Director for Science…

Dillingham Leaves Census Bureau After Whistleblower Complaints About Noncitizen Data Release

Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced his departure, effective January 20, eleven months before the end of his term. The announcement comes after whistleblower complaints came to light that Dillingham and senior political appointees were pressuring Census Bureau employees to rush the publication of a potentially “statistically indefensible” data report on noncitizens. Dillingham’s public announcement of his resignation included a response to questions posed by the Department of Commerce Inspector General’s Office regarding the noncitizens report. Dillingham’s announcement also notes that he has respect for President-elect Biden and had prepared, after requests from the Biden transition team, to stay on…

Save the Date for Social Science Advocacy Day 2021

COSSA’s 2021 Social Science Advocacy Day, the only annual, coordinated advocacy day in support of all of the social and behavioral sciences, will take place on April 27, 2021. Social Science Advocacy Day brings together social scientists and other science advocates from across the country to engage with policymakers. Last year, Advocacy Day went virtual, and COSSA will build on that experience in 2021 to give participants the ability to safely engage with their elected officials from home. Participants will be teamed up with social scientists from their home state to participate in a day of virtual meetings with House…

Vaccination Communication Report Authors Highlight Strategies to Reduce Hesitancy

During the January 14 COSSA Headlines webinar, Drs. Christine Hunter and Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou, two of the co-authors of the recent National Institutes of Health report on COVID-19 Vaccination Communication           , shared an overview of the report. They also provided a summary of the report’s recommendations that communities can utilize to ensure that messaging about the entire COVID-19 vaccination process relies on evidence-backed strategies. These are available as a one-page tip sheet. A recording of the webinar and the slides are posted to the COSSA website.

FROM THE ARCHIVES Decision on Census Adjustment Looms (January 29, 2001)

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 attention to the choice of the new Census Director concerns the decision of which numbers the Bureau will release. The national-level data, which determines each state’s representation in Congress (apportionment), were made public at the end of December. However, the block-level data are scheduled to be available in March; these will include the raw “head count” figures. The controversy surrounds whether the Bureau will also release statistically-adjusted figures; this is currently unclear….

NSF Solicitation on “Future of Work” Encourages Social Science Proposals

The National Science Foundation has released a solicitation related to its Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF) Big Idea. The solicitation invites proposals for multidisciplinary research investigating the evolving technological, human and societal aspects of work. Researchers from the social, behavioral and economic sciences are asked to collaborate with researchers in computer science, engineering and learning sciences to investigate the potential impacts of technological innovations and disruptions. More information is available in the full solicitation. Proposals are due on March 23, 2021.

NIH Launches New COVID-19 Research Website

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a new website for COVID-19 research information, according to a January 19 blog post by NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Mike Lauer. According to Lauer, the website includes key information about the agency’s vaccine and diagnostics programs for COVID-19 as well as searchable information on funded research categorized by state, institution, Congressional district, and other notable fields. The website also includes the latest public-facing information on COVID-19 vaccines and testing, information about participating in clinical trials, and other Federal agency resources on COVID-19. The website is available here.

APA Announces Mitchell Prinstein as Next Chief Science Officer

The American Psychological Association (APA), a COSSA governing member, has  announced the selection of Mitchell Prinstein as its new Chief Science Officer. Prinstein, who is slated to transition into the role starting March 1, is the John Van Seters distinguished professor of psychology and neuroscience and assistant dean of Honors Carolina at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, another COSSA member. More information is available in the full press release on the APA website.


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