Issue 3 (February 15)
On February 4, the House of Representatives passed the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521). The nearly 3,000-page package is the product of months of work across several House Committees on a suite of bills related to advancing the U.S. STEM enterprise and shoring up U.S. scientific competitiveness, especially with respect to China. The bill includes a range of provisions, including a reauthorization of the National Science Foundation (NSF), research security directives, initiatives aimed at broadening participation in science, and combatting sexual and other forms of harassment. COSSA has prepared a section-by-section analysis of the House COMPETES bill outlining the most important provisions to the social and behavioral science community.
The COMPETES bill is the House’s response to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) that passed the Senate last year (see past coverage). While the bills are similar in their overarching goals, key differences remain, including their respective approaches for reauthorizing NSF and establishing a new tech transfer-focused directorate at the agency. The next step is for the House and Senate to conference on the two bills and try to find consensus on a final package. They timeline for negotiations is unknown; however, passage of innovation and competitiveness language is a top priority for leaders in the House and Senate, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Follow COSSA’s coverage for the latest details on this and other important legislation.
Congress has yet to enact final fiscal year (FY) 2022 funding legislation almost five months into the fiscal year. The federal government has been operating under a continuing resolution (CR) since October 1, 2021, which is set to expire this Friday, February 18. Last week, House and Senate leaders announced they had come to agreement on a framework that would allow lawmakers to complete work on the overdue annual spending bills. A new stopgap funding measure was passed by the House last week giving lawmakers until March 11 to complete their work. The Senate is seeking to pass the extension this week but is currently facing partisan blocks from Republicans seeking action related to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The Senate will be working this week to avoid a government shutdown come Friday.
Check out COSSA’s coverage for the latest on FY 2022 funding for social and behavioral science research.
On February 8, the Subcommittee for Health within the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (E&C) held a hearing on the proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) with a heavy focus of the discussion on the structure of the agency within the federal government. Among other issues, members of the Committee heard testimony on whether a DARPA-like research agency should be housed within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as proposed by the Biden Administration or established as an independent agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Witnesses included Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Francisco Dr. Keith Yamamoto, Executive Director of FasterCures and Center for Public Health and the Milken Institute Esther Krofah, CEO of On Demand Pharmaceuticals and Professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine Dr. Geoffrey Shiu Fei Ling, Former Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett P. Giroir, and Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine Dr. Brian James Miller.
Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Full E&C Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and E&C Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) all commented on the importance of innovation in biomedical research, although Republican members raised concerns about “gain-of-function” research, which artificially enhances microorganisms, and oversight of research agencies on COVID-19 related issues (see previous coverage for more details). Eshoo voiced support for establishing ARPA-H as an independent agency and indicated that she would mark up two ARPA-H authorization proposals in the near future. The witnesses voiced support for investments in biomedical research through a new ARPA-H and praised the successes of the NIH writ large. Notably, many of the witnesses believed the high-risk, nimble nature of the proposed ARPA-H would be better suited to an independent agency rather than housed within NIH, with Admiral Giroir testifying, “we need ARPA-H because NIH cannot maintain a culture of radical innovation, disciplined execution, specific accountability, and streamlined processes that are essential for ARPA-H.”
Statements from Pallone, Eshoo, and witness testimonies along with a recording of the hearing are available on the E&C website.
Earlier this month, the Senate Committee on Finance and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held hearings to discuss issues related to mental health, including youth mental health and substance use disorders. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy was the sole witness at the Finance Committee’s hearing, while the HELP Committee featured Chief Science Officer of the American Psychological Association Dr. Mitch Prinstein (a member of the COSSA Board of Directors), Vice Chair of Education in the Psychiatry Department at Boston Medical Center Dr. Michelle Durham, Director of the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services Sarah Goldsby, Chief Executive Officer of the Centerstone Research Institute Dr. Jennifer Lockman, and youth advocate for mental health services in Alaska Claire Rhyneer as witnesses.
Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) presided over the Senate Finance Committee hearing on protecting youth mental health on February 8. In their opening statements, Senator Wyden and Senator Crapo emphasized the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and their mental health. Senator Wyden remarked that the Committee is working on creating bipartisan legislation in an effort to address the youth mental health crisis and laid out the framework for the organization of the efforts, with one member from each party spearheading issues such as workforce shortages, telehealth availability, and coverage discrepancies. Dr. Murthy supported this endeavor and engaged with the Committee members to answer questions relevant to these and other topics related to youth mental health. A recording of the hearing is available on the Finance Committee website.
The Senate HELP Committee held its hearing on February 1, led by Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) who stood in for Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC). Much like Senator Wyden and Senator Crapo’s opening statements, Senator Murray and Senator Murkowski commented on the dismal state of availability for mental health services in their states and across the country. Similarly, members of the HELP Committee emphasized the role of stigma surrounding mental illness in exacerbating mental health crises and contributing to substance use disorders among vulnerable Americans. Both committees noted the concerning racial and ethnic disparities that are associated with mental health concerns and substance use disorders and expressed interest in working to overcome such disparities. Senator Murray and the members of the Committee also stated their intent to collaborate and create a bipartisan package which would work to address the mental health and substance use disorder crises in the country in the near future. A recording of the hearing is available on the HELP Committee website.
This article was contributed by COSSA’s Spring Intern Sofi Cavenaile of the University of Texas, San Antonio.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is seeking input on updates to the National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research and Development Strategic Plan. The most recent update to the plan (2019) sets out 8 strategic aims for AI R&D:
- Make long-term investments in AI research.
- Develop effective methods for human-AI collaboration.
- Understand and address the ethical, legal, and societal implications of AI.
- Ensure the safety and security of AI systems.
- Develop shared public datasets and environments for AI training and testing.
- Measure and evaluate AI technologies through standards and benchmarks.
- Better understand the national AI R&D workforce needs.
- Expand Public-Private Partnerships to accelerate advances in AI.
Among the topics for which OSTP is seeking input are potential areas of focus for AI R&D that “could address societal issues such as equity, climate change, healthcare, and job opportunities, especially in communities that have been traditionally underserved,” and “how AI R&D can help address harms due to disparate treatment of different demographic groups; research that informs the intersection of AI R&D and application with privacy and civil liberties; AI R&D to help address the underrepresentation of certain demographic groups in the AI workforce; and AI R&D to evaluate and address bias, equity, or other concerns related to the development, use, and impact of AI.” More details is available in the Federal Register notice. Comments will be accepted through March 4, 2022.
The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) has announced the establishment of a new data platform to “modernize data collection and management to maximize the scientific value of people-centered data, enabling efficient and innovative multidisciplinary research focused on serving society and improving the lives of people in the U.S.” Funded under NSF’s Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure II program (see previous coverage), the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research will establish a Research Data Ecosystem: A National Resource for Reproducible, Robust, and Transparent Social Science Research in the 21st Century. More details about the new platform are available on the NSF website.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a call for nominations for the 2022 National Medal of Science, the highest scientific honor in the United States, which recognizing outstanding individuals’ contributions to science, including to the physical, biological, mathematical, engineering, and behavioral or social sciences. Candidates will be considered on the following criteria:
- The impact of an individual’s body of work on science;
- The significance of an individual’s achievements on the development of through in science;
- Distinguished service in the general advancement of science;
- Recognition by peers within the scientific community;
- Contributions to innovation and industry;
- Influence on education through publications, teaching, outreach, or mentoring;
- The impact of an individual’s body of work on the United States.
Nominations will be accepted through May 20, 2022. Winners are presented their medals by the President of the United States during a White House ceremony. More information on the nomination process is available on the NSF website.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) is seeking nominations for individuals to serve three-year terms on the Board on Environmental Change and Society (BECS). The Board mobilizes social and behavioral sciences to identify equitable and effective solutions to the challenges at the intersection of environmental change and society. The Academies is seeking qualified nominees with expertise in behavior decision making; environmental decision making; sociology; anthropology; risk perception, uncertainty, and communication; big data; environmental change; mitigation and adaptation management and transitions; transformative change; systems science; socio-ecological systems; environmental justice; economics; environmental policy and law; psychology; environmental and occupational health; renewable energy policy; stakeholder engagement; human geography; human-environment interactions; and climate governance. The deadline for nominations is February 20, 2022. Nominations may be submitted here.