Issue 2 (February 1)
On January 25, Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced the America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521). As previously reported, House and Senate leaders have been working on innovation and competitiveness legislation for more than two years now. While the House’s approach has been to focus on shoring up the U.S. scientific enterprise through targeted investments in the National Science Foundation and other science agencies, the Senate’s focus has been more squarely on competing with China through investments in key technologies. This has made negotiations between the House and Senate challenging. The new House bill appears to be the chamber’s latest response to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) that passed the Senate over the summer and, as such, contains several similarities to USICA.
For example, both bills call for the establishment of a new research directorate at NSF and would authorize regional innovation hubs, as proposed in earlier versions of the bills. In addition, both bills include sections related to research security, albeit each taking differing approaches. Several major differences remain between the two measures that will need to be addressed in a conference committee between the chambers, such as proposals in the House bill to support climate change mitigation and provisions that would eliminate caps on green cards for doctoral graduates in STEM fields.
The House Rules Committee is meeting today to determine which amendments to consider when the COMPETES Act heads to the House floor for debate, which could begin as soon as this week. COSSA is currently analyzing the nearly 3,000-page package and will provide additional details in the coming days.
COSSA members are invited to register for COSSA’s 2022 virtual Social Science Advocacy Day on March 29. Social Science Advocacy Day is the only annual, coordinated advocacy day in support of all of the social and behavioral sciences. The event brings together social scientists and other science advocates from across the country to engage with policymakers. Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, the registration fee for Advocacy Day is only $25, but spots are limited, so register soon.
Sponsors help COSSA to defray the costs of our Advocacy Day, while providing organizations with additional visibility among colleagues in the social and behavioral science and higher education communities. COSSA is offering a variety of sponsorship packages this year, including the ability to get up to four free Advocacy Day registrations. Check out our 2022 sponsorship opportunities here.
February’s COSSA Headlines webinar will feature a deep dive discussion with anthropologist Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Institution Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large, who will share information about his work preserving cultural heritage. COSSA members should watch for an email on Thursday, February 4 with details on how to register (sign up for members-only emails here). Information on how to register will be posted to this page.
This week’s Why Social Science? post comes from Norma J. Bond Burgess, President of the National Council on Family Relations, who writes about the importance and role of family science in understanding and improving family relationships.
The latest Why Social Science? guest post comes from Anna Harvey, President of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), who writes about a new SSRC initiative to combat health mis- and disinformation.
The current continuing resolution (CR) keeping the federal government open expires on February 18. Fiscal year (FY) 2022 began on October 1, 2021 without any of the 12 annual appropriations bills having been enacted into law. Reports indicate that House and Senate leadership are gauging the possibility of finalizing the FY 2022 spending measures before the CR deadline in just a couple weeks. The most likely outcome is a sweeping omnibus appropriations bill packaging all or some of the individual bills into a single measure. However, before that can happen, leaders must reach an agreement on top-line funding levels—that is, how much the government can spend in discretionary appropriations across all 12 bills. Once the top-line number is set, final negotiations can begin in earnest. The next few weeks will be critical for determining the path forward on funding for the remainder of FY 2022. Follow COSSA’s appropriations coverage here.
On January 25, Senate leadership from the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) released a draft of the PREVENT Pandemics Act, a new piece of bipartisan legislation aimed at strengthening public health and pandemic preparedness responses, including research responses to COVID-19. The draft, which was jointly released by HELP Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC), is currently structured in five parts: strengthening federal and state preparedness; improving public health preparedness and response capacity; accelerating research and countermeasure discovery; modernizing the supply chain for vital medical products; and enhancing development and combating shortages of medical products. In a press release announcing the draft, Murray and Burr state that they are looking at opportunities to add other provisions to the bill in Committee mark up within the next few weeks, some of which may support research at the proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), improve laboratory security, and other provisions. Community feedback on the draft may be submitted to the Committee through February 4. More information is available on the HELP Committee website.
On January 11, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released the report of its Scientific Integrity Fast-Track Action Committee, a group created by President Biden charged with identifying ways the federal government at all levels can preserve the accuracy and objectivity of science and protect government science from suppression, manipulation, and political interference. The report was developed in response to a 2021 Presidential Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking, which COSSA has been reporting on and that aligns with COSSA’s recommendations to the Biden Administration delivered in late 2020.
The Committee conducted a review of existing federal agency scientific integrity policies and identified “good practices” for improving implementation. Among the report’s findings include the following:
- All major science agencies already have in place scientific integrity policies; however, they may need to be strengthened to “deter undue influence in the conduct, management, communication, and use of science.” This is particularly important for agency leaders at the highest levels who set an example to either enable or undermine scientific integrity policies.
- In addition to protecting science from undue influence, scientific integrity policies must also foster “the appropriate and transparent use of science in decision-making.” To this end, the report calls on all federal agencies that conduct, manage, communicate, or use science in decision-making develop policies and institutionalize scientific integrity practices, not just “science agencies”.
- Greater attention is needed on scientific integrity training for the extramural (outside government) research community. This could include, where appropriate, requiring training as part of the terms of a grant or contract.
Among the many “good practices” identified in the report for federal agencies to consider adopting include:
- Fostering an organizational culture of scientific integrity within every agency starting at the top and reinforced by training of agency staff.
- Encouraging continued professional development of federal scientists, including by allowing federal employees to participate in scientific conferences.
- Building collaborative relationships between government scientists and agency communications staff to foster effective and transparent communication of scientific information to decision-makers, the media, and the public.
- Limiting the review of government science products by non-scientific staff to ensure that changes by non-scientific staff (e.g., policy or communications staff) do not alter scientific results. In addition, federal agencies need to clearly differentiate between scientific results and agency positions and policy.
- Creating clear procedures for reporting violations or concerns and ensuring whistleblower protections.
As outlined in the 2021 memorandum, the Committee will now turn to developing “a framework to support regular assessment and iterative improvement of agency scientific integrity policies.” The full report is available on the White House website.
On January 21, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) updated its list of STEM Designated Degree Programs. F-1-visa-holding students completing degrees within these fields of study may apply for 24-month extensions to their visas to undertake optional practical training (OPT). A number of the fields added to the list are relevant to the social and behavioral sciences, including:
- Human-Centered Technology Design
- Economics and Computer Science
- Geography and Environmental Studies
- Mathematical Economics
- Data Science, General
- Data Analytics, General, and
- Business Analytics.
The Federal Register notice announcing the change includes more information about the process for petitioning to add fields to the DHS list, as well as more information about each selected field.
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued a request for comments on the recommendations of the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP) regarding the implementation of a standard application process for accessing confidential federal data (which may be downloaded here). The ICSP report, which was written in response to requirements in the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (“Evidence Act,” see previous coverage), outlines considerations for applying to access confidential statistical data, agency review of applications, and an appeals process for applications that are denied. OMB is particularly interested in receiving comments on the proposal related to metadata standards, application windows, applicant evaluation, appeals process, and public reporting. Full details are available in the Federal Register notice. Comments must be submitted by March 16, 2022.
NIH Releases Collection of Resources Highlighting Accomplishments in Behavioral and Social Sciences Research
The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently released an installment of fact sheets and infographics containing summaries of important advancements in public health with major contributions from the behavioral and social sciences. The collection of resources focuses on the ten following public health topics:
- Chronic Pain
- Intimate Partner Violence
- Teen Pregnancy
- Tobacco Use
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
OBSSR had released a previous resource in 2013 highlighting achievements of the behavioral and social sciences acknowledging OBSSR’s 20th anniversary. The full collection of resources is available on the OBSSR website.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced that it has selected Dr. Carlotta M. Arthur as its next executive director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE). Dr. Arthur was most recently Clare Boothe Luce Program for Women in STEM of the Henry Luce Foundation. She succeeds Dr. Mary Ellen O’Connell effective February 14.
The University of Maryland and UIDP, in collaboration with COSSA, the National Science Foundation, MITRE, the Optimal Solutions Group, SAGE Publishing, and the Federation of Associations in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, will be hosting the second part of the Workshop on U-I Partnerships in the Social Sciences (see previous coverage for more details). This in-person workshop, which is a continuation of the events held virtually on October 14, 2021, will bring together “a group of experts and leaders from academia, industry, and government to consider how academic-corporate partnerships can advance social, behavioral, and organizational science research to positively impact science and society.” A few agenda highlights include:
- Assessing the Impact of Interdisciplinary Approaches in Academic-Industry Collaboration
- Leader Development: Insights and Opportunities that Cross Industry and Academia
- Experiential Learning: Lessons from Private, Public, and Non-profit Partnerships
This event will be held on April 20-21, 2022 at The Hotel at the University of Maryland. More information on registration for this event can be found here.
This article was contributed by COSSA’s Spring Intern Sofi Cavenaile of the University of Texas, San Antonio.