Issue 8 (April 26)
The White House has published a list of equity action plans that have been developed by various federal agencies in order to comply with President Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government (E.O. 13985) issued on the first day of his term (see previous coverage for more details). According to the White House announcement, more than 90 federal agencies across the government were consulted to contribute to the equity action plans to address where barriers to accessing federal programs may exist and identify changes to federal policy that could be made. In addition, each of the cabinet level agencies developed snapshots providing an overview of the equity findings within their various smaller agencies. For more information on the Equity Action Plans efforts click here.
Some of the agency efforts related to the research and statistics enterprise are listed below:
- The Equity Action Plan for NSF cites the creation of a new program to expand anti-harassment initiatives associated with NSF-funded programs and the updating of the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide to include anti-harassment requirements for travel proposals. It also cites acknowledgements of Native Hawaiians at astronomical research facilities in Hawaii and the designation of Tribal organizations as eligible for submitting proposals for NSF funding.
- New strategies the plan recommends for NSF include extending harassment prevention policies to include field sites and research vessels, expanding the demographic data collected of NSF grantees, increasing participation in NSF funded programs by historically underrepresented institutions, and investing in civil rights resources at the NSF Office of Equity and Civil Rights.
- The Equity Action Plan for HHS cites the establishment of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, the HHS Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, the UNITE Initiative at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Minority Health Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as major pushes to advance health disparities and health equity research throughout the department.
- Equity advancement strategies for HHS to consider include responding to the maternal mortality crisis among disadvantaged populations, addressing barriers to individuals with limited English proficiency, including equity considerations into Notices of Funding Opportunities, and investing resources into equity assessments and civil rights programs at the HHS Office of Civil Rights.
- The Equity Action Plan for the Department of Commerce cites the Census Bureau’s “Data for Equity” webpage and the development of equity datasets to make data about equity more available from various sources of Census data.
- The plan recommends that the Commerce Department make its science and data more findable, accessible, and usable for the public, especially among underserved communities.
Congress returns this week from its two-week recess to a packed agenda. Oversight hearings on the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2023 budget request have begun in earnest, with Biden Administration officials appearing before House and Senate Committees throughout the week to defend the President’s funding priorities for next year. Reports indicate an ambitious timeline in the House for considering the FY 2023 appropriations bills. It has been reported that House leadership is looking to hold floor votes on as many FY 2023 bills as possible in July, meaning the House Appropriations Committee and various subcommittees will need to complete their work in June. Appropriators are currently eyeing June 13-22 for subcommittee mark ups with full committee consideration penciled on for June 22-30. Leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are said to be meeting soon to discuss overall funding levels for discretionary spending, which needs to be determined before the bills are written. Of course, this could all change as Congress continues to negotiate on the next COVID-19 relief package and additional assistance to Ukraine. Stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage for all the details on FY 2023 funding for social and behavioral science.
On April 20, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced that the newly created Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) would be formally transferred to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). ARPA-H, which has been a frequently touted priority for the Biden Administration, was newly established in March with the passage of the final appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2022. Although initially established as an independent agency, the appropriations bill gave the HHS secretary authority to transfer ARPA-H elsewhere within the Department, including NIH (see COSSA’s analysis of the final FY 2022 Appropriations for more details).
The issue of where ARPA-H should be housed has sowed friction between some Members of Congress and the Biden Administration, especially as Congress weighs various options to authorize the new agency. While the Biden Administration has long advocated for ARPA-H to be housed within NIH as a unique “high-risk, high-reward” branch within NIH’s greater biomedical research portfolio, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), chair of the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health, introduced authorizing legislation in October that would establish ARPA-H as an independent agency within HHS and has doubled down on her support for the agency’s independence in a recent press release. Alternatively, a second authorization proposal, the Cures 2.0 Act, introduced by representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) would establish ARPA-H within NIH. With the authorization of ARPA-H still in limbo in Congress, it is not yet clear how the recent transfer affects these proposals and the pending authorization process.
You can follow all of COSSA’s coverage regarding ARPA-H on our website.
On April 22, the Equitable Data Working Group (“Working Group”) released a report on advancing the use of equitable data in the government. The Working Group was established in response to President Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government (E.O. 13985). The Working Group consulted several outside organizations during their information collection, including several COSSA governing members such as the American Economic Association, the American Statistical Association, and the Population Association of America. Some of the major recommendations from the report include calling for making disaggregated data the norm, catalyzing existing federal government infrastructure to leverage underused data, and building capacity for robust equity assessment for policymaking and program implementation. The Working Group’s full report is available here.
On May 12, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) will host a hybrid event featuring Dr. Alondra Nelson, Acting Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), for a discussion regarding equity within federal research programs. The event will feature keynote remarks from Dr. Nelson on co-producing scientific knowledge in partnership with diverse groups of stakeholders. Following these remarks will be a moderated panel discussion and a public forum to answer, “what does equitable co-production look like in practice?” and “what should it look like?” Registration in advance is required to attend the event in person, although it will be available virtually as well. More information is available on the National Academies website.