Issue 1 (January 9)
On New Year’s Eve, the scientific community lost one of its most dedicated champions. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) represented the people of Dallas in Congress for 30 years, retiring at the end of 2022. Over those 15 terms in Congress, Johnson served as a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, most recently serving as Chair.
Johnson began her career as a nurse after being told that women could not be doctors. She rose through the ranks of the Veterans Administration hospital in Dallas, ultimately becoming chief psychiatric nurse. She became active in civil rights efforts and ran successfully for a seat in the Texas State Legislature in 1972. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992, Johnson became the first woman and the first African American to serve on the House Science Committee.
Johnson played important roles in the development of major science legislation throughout her tenure as a member of the Science Committee, including passage of the America COMETES Act of 2010 which paved the way for new investment in federal science funding and put a spotlight on the need to make science more inclusive by expanding opportunities for women and people of color. More recently, Johnson is credited with leading efforts to enact the CHIPS and Science Act in 2022, sweeping legislation that included ambitious funding targets and other policy proposals for shoring up U.S. science agencies, including the National Science Foundation.
“The scientific community lost one of its greatest supporters with the passing of Congresswoman Johnson,” said COSSA Executive Director Wendy Naus. “She left an indelible mark on the U.S. science enterprise as we know it today, especially through her dedication to diversity and representation in science. COSSA is dedicated to seeing that her work lives on.”
COSSA awarded Johnson its Distinguished Service Award in 2016 for her unwavering support for social and behavioral science research and steadfast leadership on behalf of the U.S. scientific enterprise.
Read more about Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson’s contributions to science in the Winter 2023 edition of Issues in Science & Technology.
Curious about 2024 Social Science Advocacy Day? Do you have questions or want to know more about what to expect? Join us for one of our informational webinars!
The sessions will provide an overview of Advocacy Day, how to register, answer any questions, and more!
On Sunday, House and Senate leaders took the first step to avoiding a government shutdown by reaching an agreement to fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal year (FY) 2024. This agreement includes a total of $1.66 trillion for discretionary spending in FY 2024. The spending is divided into $886.3 billion for defense and $772.7 billion for domestic discretionary spending. This allocation adheres to the previous deal between President Biden and then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, which included a $69 billion side deal for non-defense discretionary funding to keep those accounts whole.
Under the agreement, the defense budget will receive a 3 percent funding increase, while non-defense budgets are set to remain roughly flat, representing a less than 1 percent decrease from the current funding. Notably, the deal includes a rescission of $6.1 billion in coronavirus emergency spending authority and accelerates cuts from the $80 billion originally allocated to the Internal Revenue Service under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, reducing it by $20 billion this year.
Responses to the bill are varied. Democrats are satisfied with the preservation of non-defense programs, particularly the inclusion of the $69 billion side deal that House Republicans still need to agree to. However, the Freedom Caucus and other Republicans are advocating for spending levels to return to pre-pandemic amounts and are pushing for conservative policy amendments. These include restrictions on abortion and provisions that reduce illegal immigration.
Despite this progress, the challenge remains for Congress to act swiftly. Essential funding for departments like Agriculture, Transportation, Energy, and Veterans Affairs expires on January 19, and funding for the rest of the government, including federal science agencies and other domestic programs, runs out on February 2. A shutdown remains a possibility, with complex policy issues such as GOP border reforms and Biden’s separate request for over $100 billion to aid Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan needing resolution, which House Republicans are currently positioning a hard line on.
While the agreement signifies a step forward, significant hurdles remain. As Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) aptly puts, “We must avoid a shutdown, but Congress now faces the challenge of having only 12 days to negotiate and write language, secure passage by both chambers, and get the first four appropriations bills signed into law.” It is all but certain that Congress will need to enact a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to allow time to complete the bills, with rumors suggesting March as a potential new deadline.
To stay abreast with all appropriation developments, make sure to follow COSSA’s Congressional News.
In a notable move addressing concerns over foreign influence in federally funded research, U.S. lawmakers, including Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (CA-18), Rep. Judy Chu (CA-28) and Ranking Member Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-08), have urged the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to scrutinize the impartiality of current investigations. This request, highlighted in a detailed letter, emphasizes the need for adopting a bias-free and nondiscriminatory attitude towards investment from foreign institutions. The spotlight falls on agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which have been actively investigating researchers with alleged foreign ties.
The lawmakers’ request to the GAO includes critical questions about due process rights for the accused researchers and calls for enhanced transparency and refined policies to eliminate bias, including: “What due process exists for researchers being investigated for alleged foreign influence, and how can they respond to or refute these allegations?” The outcome of this review is expected to influence future policies significantly, advocating for robust due process mechanisms and a more equitable investigative framework.
As the scientific community and stakeholders await a response, the GAO’s decision will set a precedent for how the U.S. navigates the complex interplay between securing its research and upholding the principles of fairness and inclusivity.
Stay tuned to COSSA’s continued coverage for more updates.
A bipartisan group of Congressional leaders has reached out to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) seeking clarity and commitment on the funding processes and research quality of the newly established Artificial Intelligence Safety Institute (AISI). The group, led by House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) sent a letter to the NIST Director to address concerns.
Given the nascent and complex nature of AI safety research, the letter highlights the issues currently plaguing the field, including self-referential findings, lack of rigorous critique, and a general disagreement over scope, taxonomies, and definitions. These challenges underscore the need for AISI’s leadership and NIST’s guidance to be grounded in robust research practices.
To address these concerns and ensure a path forward that aligns with the highest standards of scientific integrity, Congressional leaders are requesting a comprehensive briefing from NIST. This marks a bipartisan commitment to move forward in a groundbreaking field with careful attention to ethical questions and the broader impact on society.
The Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (OBSSR) within the National Institute of Health (NIH) is currently accepting proposals for the Career Enhancement Award to Advance Research on Firearm Injury and Mortality Prevention grant program.
Applications should focus on firearm injury and mortality prevention research with topics in areas such as accidental injury, intimate partner/dating violence, youth violence, and more.
Applications are due March 15.
The Census Bureau is seeking nominations for their Scientific Advisory Committee. The Census Bureau’s Scientific Advisory Committee advises the director of the Census Bureau on programs and activities, policies, research, surveys, and other items as needed. Committee members will be expected to serve a three-year term and to have experience in one of the following fields: communications, demographic, economic, field operations, geography, information technology, and statistics. The Bureau is especially interested in people with experience in survey methodology, information technology, computer science and engineering, geography, psychology, business/finance, sociology, and marketing.
Nominations are due February 2 and should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “2024 CSAC Nominations.”
The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) in the National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a Knowledge Base, a new user resource on NCSES tools and data. The website provides robust information on how to understand and use NCSES data as well as answers to frequently asked questions and a glossary for commonly used terms. The Knowledge Base is intended to help people navigate NCSES data while simultaneously providing support in an easy and accessible way. This resource comes as NCSES works towards making their data more available for public use.
Questions can be sent to email@example.com.
On December 12, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the appointment of Tess deBlanc-Knowles as the new Special Assistant to the Director for Artificial Intelligence. Alongside this role, she’ll continue her duties within NSF’s Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships as Strategic Advisor for Technology Policy and Strategy.
As a former OSTP Senior Policy Advisor, deBlanc-Knowles led policy efforts to strengthen the nation’s AI innovation by co-chairing the National AI Research Resource Task Force, oversaw the the National AI Research and Development Strategic Plan: 2023 Update and led the process in crafting the nation’s first strategy to advance privacy-enhancing technologies. Now, as the lead in the Office of the Director for AI-related issues, deBlanc-Knowles will be tasked to steer NSF’s alignment with the Executive Order on AI. This involves nurturing collaborations across the agency on AI initiatives and engaging meaningfully with national AI strategies.
NSF Unveils First-Ever Accelerating Research Translation Awards to Boost Economic Growth Through Academic Research
The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced its first-ever investment in the Accelerating Research Translation (ART) initiative. More than $100 million will be dedicated to 18 teams at academic institutions nationwide to accelerate the pace and scale of translational research aimed to foster economic growth across the nation.
The ART program is set to award up to $6 million over four years to each selected institution. These funds will be used to identify and develop academic research with potential for technology transfer, ensure the availability of staff with technology transfer expertise, and support the education and training of entrepreneurial faculty and students.
A unique aspect of the ART program is the partnership between awardee institutions and mentoring institutions of higher education (IHE) that possess a robust ecosystem for translational research, with at least 15 universities acting as partner mentoring institutions to ensure the ART network enlists robust expertise and resources.
To learn more, visit the ART program website.
The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) has announced two new postdoctoral fellowships. These fellowships are designed to support recent doctoral graduates interested in the study of ethical and responsible research. Each program offers one slot for a dedicated and passionate fellow:
- Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Innovation Fellow: The SBE Innovation Fellow will engage in strategic outreach and engagement efforts within the Centers for Research and Innovation in Science, the Environment, and Society (CRISES) program. This role is ideal for someone keen to connect with a diverse range of collaborators, from policymakers and businesses to individual scientists and professional organizations, as well as potential funding partners.
- Science Research, Policy, and Data in Social and Economic Sciences (SES) and Public Access and Open Science (PAOS): The fellow will assist SES division leadership and program officers in analyses, communications, and related matters that include examinations of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) merit review process, portfolio and participant balance for diversity, equity, and inclusion and accessibility. The fellow will also be an active participant in the NSF PAOS Working Group, contributing to policy development regarding access to research data, publications, and software code at the agency level.
Applications are due January 24 and can be submitted here.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) is seeking experts to be considered for the Standing Committee on Advancing Science Communication.
NASEM is looking to fill four open seats on the Standing Committee in addition to collecting information for potential speakers, participants, and other forms of engagement. The Standing Committee is looking for expertise particularly in the following areas: science communication researchers (psychology, cognitive science, anthropology, sociology, political science); science communication practitioners (journalists, think tanks, federal agencies, and nonprofit research organizations); and related professions and disciplines (marketing, health communication/health promotion, risk communication, mass media communications; science education; research design and program evaluation; public policy).
Nominations are due January 10 and can be submitted here.
On January 16, The American Academy of Political and Social Science (AAPSS) will be hosting a webinar titled, “Civic Education in a Time of Democratic Crisis: Charting a new agenda for bipartisan and effective learning in our contentious environment”. AAPSS is a COSSA member institution.
The webinar, moderated by William Galston of The Brookings Institution, will highlight research from a multi-disciplinary team of researchers to describe what works in civic education, and it will feature a dialogue on re-orienting teaching and learning toward meaningful civic outcomes. Panelists will discuss how educators can more effectively teach civics and how to best prepare our young people to be champions of democracy.
Register here for the webinar.