agency leadership

Larry Tabak Named Acting Director for NIH, Questions Remain Regarding Presidential Nomination

On December 9, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced that Larry Tabak, current principal deputy director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), would take leadership of NIH as acting director beginning on December 20. Current NIH director Francis Collins announced his intent to step down earlier this year after 15 years of service in the role as the agency’s director (see previous coverage for more details). Tabak has been a mainstay at NIH, serving as director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) for a decade prior to his naming as principal deputy…

Robert Santos Confirmed as Census Director

On November 4, the Senate voted 58-35 to confirm Robert Santos as the Director of the Census Bureau. Santos is currently the President of the American Statistical Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member. Upon his confirmation, Santos became the first person of color to lead the Census Bureau. Santos was nominated by President Biden in April to succeed Trump-appointee Steven Dillingham, who resigned in January after complaints from whistleblowers came to light (see previous coverage). Ron Jarmin has been Acting Director of the Bureau since Dillingham’s departure.

Bill Riley to Retire as Director of NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research

On September 30, William T. Riley, Associate Director for Behavioral and Social Science Research (BSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), announced his retirement from NIH at the end of December 2021. OBSSR Deputy Director Christine Hunter will take over as Acting Director position until a permanent replacement is named. Riley, who has led BSSR efforts at NIH for the past seven years, has been a tremendous proponent of the social and behavioral sciences through his previous roles at NIH including in the National Cancer Institute (NCI),…

Search for U.S. Chief Statistician Reopened

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has reopened the vacancy announcement for the Chief Statistician of the United States. The post has been vacant since the retirement of former Chief Statistician Nancy Potok at the end of 2019. The Chief Statistician oversees OMB’s Statistical Policy and Science Branch and is responsible for implementing cross-agency data and statistics policies, including the Federal Data Strategy and the implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. The window for applications closes on November 4.

Francis Collins Stepping Down as NIH Director

On October 5, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Francis Collins announced his intent to step down from his position by the end of the year. Collins has indicated he would continue to work at NIH within the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) after his tenure ends. Collins, who took the helm of the agency in 2009 after 15 years of service as the director of NHGRI, is notable for being the longest serving presidentially appointed NIH director and for serving presidents from both major parties. In addition, Collins oversaw massive increases in the agency’s budget over…

Census Nominee Receives Committee Approval as Delayed 2020 Data Released

On August 4, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted (10-4) to advance the nomination of Dr. Robert Santos to lead the Census Bureau (see previous coverage). Santos now moves to consideration by the full Senate, but the timing of a vote to confirm him remains unclear. Ron Jarmin remains Acting Director of the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau released redistricting data from the 2020 Census on August 14, the second major data release from the decennial census. Compared with the previously released apportionment data, the redistricting data paints a much more detailed geographic and demographic picture…

NSF Seeks Candidates for SBE Leadership Positions

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has initiated a national search for its next Assistant Director for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate. Dr. Arthur Lupia has served in this position since 2018. The Assistant Director for SBE oversees the directorate, which includes the Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, the Division of Social and Economic Sciences, the SBE Office of Multidisciplinary Activities, and the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. The search committee will be led by Robert Groves, Executive Vice President and Provost at Georgetown University, and is seeking candidates with outstanding leadership capabilities; a deep…

Biden Nominates ARS Administrator to lead USDA Research

The Biden Administration has announced the nomination of Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young to serve as the Department of Agriculture’s Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics (REE). The REE Under Secretary oversees the Department’s science and research activities, including the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Economic Research Service (ERS), and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Dr. Jacobs-Young is currently the Administrator of another REE agency, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and has also been serving as Acting REE Under Secretary. A Senate confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled.

EHR Director to Take on NSF COO Role

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has named Dr. Karen Marrongelle as its next Chief Operating Office (COO) effective August 2, succeeding F. Fleming Crim, who has served in this role since 2018. Dr. Marrongelle has served as the Assistant Director for the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate since 2018. In a statement accompanying the announcement, NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said, “Karen Marrongelle is a strong and innovative leader with a proven track record of excellence and accomplishments.  I am delighted to have her taking on this important role at an amazing time for NSF.”

Senate Committee Considers Biden’s Census Pick

On July 15, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) held a hearing to consider the nomination of Dr. Robert L. Santos, the Biden Administration’s nominee to lead the U.S. Census Bureau (see previous coverage). In his opening statement, Santos, the current president of the American Statistical Association, described himself as a “a scientist, executive level manager, policy researcher, and long-time friend and supporter of the Census Bureau and the entire federal statistical system” and noted that while he would be serving in a politically appointed role, he is “not a politician.” COSSA joined over 30 stakeholder organizations…

Eric Lander Active in First Few Weeks as OSTP Director; Community Awaits PCAST Appointments

In the first few weeks since his confirmation on May 28, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Eric Lander has been active in advocating for President Biden’s ambitious science policy agenda, most notably the proposal for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), the DARPA-like research agency proposed to be housed within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). During the June 10-11 meeting of the Advisory Committee to the Director of NIH, Lander presented a more thorough vision of ARPA-H’s role as a high risk, high reward vehicle to address specific societal questions….

Senate Committee Considers Lander Nomination to OSTP

On April 29, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing to discuss the nomination of Dr. Eric Lander as President Biden’s pick to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), a role that the President has elevated to Cabinet-level. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) chaired the hearing and in her opening remarks, she acknowledged Lander’s scientific accomplishments, but also noted concerns about past actions related to women and minorities in STEM fields. The hearing provided an opportunity to clear the record on these and other issues and to explore Dr. Lander’s positions and goals…

White House Nominates Rob Santos, Current ASA President, to Lead Census Bureau

President Biden has named Robert Santos, Vice President & Chief Methodologist at the Urban Institute, as his Administration’s choice to lead the Census Bureau. Santos, who is currently serving as the President of the American Statistical Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member, has had a distinguished career, holding positions at the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center, NORC at the University of Chicago, and ISR Temple University. According to the White House press release, he has expertise in “survey sampling, survey design and more generally in social science/policy research.” Santos has also served on the advisory committees for the Census…

Congress Confronts Packed Post-Impeachment To-Do List

For the first time since taking office, the Biden Administration and 117th Congress can work without being consumed by the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill can now forge ahead on a COVID-19 relief package currently being negotiated and with confirmation hearings for Biden appointees. The House is looking to vote on a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package next week, which is expected to pass largely along party lines. The goal is for the House and Senate to send a completed package to the President by March 14 when current unemployment insurance relief expires. On…

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…

Trump Names New NIFA Director

In December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the appointment of Dr. Carrie Castille as the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Department’s extramural research agency. Dr. Castille has worked on Farm Production and Conservation as well as Rural Development within USDA and previously served as an Assistant Professor of Agriculture at Louisiana State University. Dr. Castille’s six-year term began on January 4, 2021. She succeeds Acting Director Parag Chitnis, who led the agency following J. Scott Angle’s departure in July 2020, two years into his six-year term.

COSSA and NIH Minority Health Institute Discuss COVID-19 Response

On September 23 as a member of the steering committee of the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, COSSA Executive Director Wendy Naus participated in a webinar (video recording) for Congressional staff featuring a discussion with Dr. Eliseo Perez-Stable, Director of the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The webinar is the first in a series organized by the Ad Hoc Group and the Coalition for Health Funding aimed at raising the visibility of NIH’s individual institutes and centers on Capitol Hill, specifically as their work relates to COVID-19 response….

USDA Names New ERS Administrator

Dr. Spiro Stefanou has been appointed to lead the Economic Research Service (ERS), one of the two principal statistics agencies within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Stefanou is an agricultural economist who previously served as a professor of economics at the University of Florida and at Penn State University. Stefanou will be taking the helm of an agency that has had a rocky several years, after the Administration’s controversial decision to move the agency to Kansas City led to significant attrition and loss of expertise at the agency. Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Sethuraman Panchanathan Confirmed as Next NSF Director

On June 18, the Senate confirmed Sethuraman Panchanathan to be the 15th Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), an agency that had been without a Senate-confirmed director since France Córdova’s term expired in March. Panchanathan, who was nominated to lead the agency in January, holds a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering and serves as the Executive Vice President of Knowledge Enterprise Development and as Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Arizona State University. He has also served on the National Science Board since 2014. The timeline for the Senate to consider Panchanathan’s nomination was delayed significantly by the…

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