December 10, 2012 Volume 31, Issue 22
COSSA Holds Colloquium on Social and Behavioral Sciences and Public Policy
On November 29 and 30 the Consortium held its annual meeting called the "Colloquium on Social and Behavioral Sciences and Public Policy." Over 125 people attended and were exposed to a series of talks and panels that highlighted the current political situation, how to broaden participation in science, the opportunities and challenges for social/behavioral science research, and how that research is used and not used by policymakers. The PowerPoint slides (from the speakers who used them) are available on the COSSA website. Ken Prewitt, Professor in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and COSSA's President, presided over the meeting. The meeting also included a reception sponsored by Sage Publications. What follows is a summary of the sessions.
Colloquium: Ornstein Assesses the Election Results
American Enterprise Institute Scholar Norman Ornstein provided an assessment of the 2012 election results. He began by suggesting that Republicans were still in shock over losing a presidential race they believed they were going to win. Their pollsters had assured them that it was in the cards. However, Ornstein noted, their polls were based on erroneous predictions of turnout (underestimating the Democratic vote). With this unexpected outcome, Ornstein asserted, there is now a battle in the GOP for primacy among various factions. One, led by Rush Limbaugh and other talk radio voices, believes Romney was not conservative enough and that continuing the very conservative direction of the party is necessary for future success. Others, believing that achieving more success among Hispanic voters is the key, support passing some version of the Dream Act to make these voters happy, while remaining true to other conservative policies. A third group, dubbed the "pragmatists" by Ornstein, understands that much needs to be done, including redefining the GOP message, since the 2012 problem was not only with the Hispanic vote, but also an equally disastrous outcome among Asian American voters.
Regarding the upcoming negotiations on the budget, Ornstein suggested that the talks were moving very slowly. He worried about the continuing pressure on the discretionary spending side of the budget that would produce a "destructive zero-sum game" among health, transportation, science, education, justice, and agriculture spending. He advised the audience that it remained important to voice to policy makers the "immense value to society and the global economy" of social and behavioral science research.
Asked about the prospects for President Obama during his second term, Ornstein reminded people that historically the second four years bring presidents difficulty with their base supporters. Put off during the first term by Obama's need for re-election, key groups such as labor, environmentalists, and even African Americans, will now press demands upon the White House to further their agendas.
Earlier, Prewitt had suggested that some pundits analyzing the election results were overplaying the demographic shifts that some have indicated would make it even more difficult for the Republicans in the future. He advised folks that there were many aspects to the changes and they did not necessarily all point in one political direction. Incoming COSSA President James Jackson, Director of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, agreed with Prewitt, asserting that once again there are "simplistic notions" in our discussion of race in America (for more on this see Jackson's talk at the COSSA 30th Anniversary celebration, Update, November 10, 2011). In addition, John Mark Hansen of the University of Chicago suggested that the political polarization evident in Washington reflected a polarized nation.
Colloquium: The Use and Non-Use of Social/Behavioral Science Research: An NRC Report and a Panel of Examples
The second day of the Colloquium featured a talk by COSSA President Ken Prewitt about the National Research Council (NRC) report, Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy. (For a summary of the report see Update, November 5, 2012). Noting it was a most difficult report to write and on which to achieve consensus, Prewitt invited fellow members of the Committee on the Use of Social Science Evidence in Public Policy to join him on the podium and to make remarks. They included: Norman Bradburn from the National Opinion Research Center and Harris Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago; Thomas Schwandt of the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and Miron Straf of the NRC, who was the study director for the report.
For Prewitt, the key question is "how to get scientific evidence" at the policymaking table. Indicating that the report advocates not for evidence-based policy, but for "evidence-influenced politics," the committee understood that decision making in a democracy is messy and other factors are in play.
What the committee and the report call for is to gain a "scientific understanding of the use of science." Prewitt asserted that "this is not easy." He noted that the "knowledge utilization" literature, which the committee reviewed extensively, has not been able to accomplish this. He suggested that some progress is occurring, citing a W.T. Grant study of use of science on education reform issues. He also indicated that studies from behavioral economics and cognitive science can join traditional political science analyses of policy making to enhance our understanding of "use." He argued for the "transformation" of public policy schools' curriculum to address this issue as well.
For Schwandt, the importance of studying group decision making rather than single actors was key to comprehending "use." He also recommended "systems thinking" to better understand the dynamism of social systems as they relate to policymaking. Bradburn reiterated this and argued for a resurrection of the Center for Group Dynamics, once a key research arm of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Straf noted the work of Peter Senge and the need to transform government as a learning organization. He also told the audience that they need to develop "good stories" of social/behavioral research because policy makers use and respond to them.
The session on the report was followed by a panel that focused on the use of social/behavioral research on crime policy, the enactment of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and homeland security.
Laurie Robinson, former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs during the Clinton and Obama Administrations and now a Professor at George Mason University and its Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, discussed her efforts to infuse science into crime policy. Since policy in this area is often emotionally charged and subject to media overreaction, this was not easy. She asserted that real progress has been made in recent years as crime has gone down and the spotlight has dimmed somewhat. She cited the 1997 University of Maryland report, What Works, What Doesn't and What's Promising, as a watershed in the development of bringing scientific study to crime policy. It "changed the conversation in the field," led to alterations of programs that were not working, like DARE, and caused key Republicans like Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), then chair of the Justice Department's appropriations subcommittee, to embrace this new approach. During her tenure in the Obama Administration, Robinson indicated, the significant change was the growing acceptance by practitioners of the research, especially on policing and crime "hot spots." Faced with constrained resources, police departments and other public safety units had to prioritize, and the research helped.
Robinson also cited the Obama Administration and Congress's willingness to provide a two percent set-aside of OJP funds for research and data as additional support for an evidence-based approach. In addition, Robinson cited other accomplishments: an OJP Scientific Advisory Board chaired by Al Blumstein (a former COSSA President), an Evidence Integration Initiative, and the establishment of crimesolutions.gov, a clearinghouse of "what works" in crime policy. Despite all this, legislation is still too often driven by emotion, she contended, suggesting that there is no evidence of the success of sex offender registries mandated by the Adam Walsh Act. She also concluded that although research-driven crime policy has become accepted by many in law enforcement leadership, the rank and file police officer often still needs convincing.
Robert Moffitt, Professor of Economics at Johns Hopkins University, used the legislative history and subsequent implementation of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as another example of social science research impacting legislation. He began by discussing a negative example, the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which ignored much of the research conducted by social and behavioral scientists. The EITC, on the other hand, grew out of the studies, mostly done by MDRC, of a proposed Negative Income Tax that was pushed unsuccessfully by the Nixon Administration. He suggested that the MDRC approach of figuring out what policy makers are interested in and then conducting the research is a significant way to have your study have some impact.
The EITC, Moffitt related, evolved from a proposal by Sen. Russell Long, (D-LA) and Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, to help the working poor. Long's proposal would have provided a credit against the payroll tax. Long's chief of staff ran the idea by economists at the Urban Institute, who sent him on to Bob Haveman at the University of Wisconsin (a former COSSA Board Member), whose research convinced Long to make the credit relate to the income, rather than the payroll tax. The legislation was initially enacted as part of a stimulus package to revive the economy during the mid-1970s. It had bipartisan support because initially it did not cost a lot of money, Moffitt argued. During the past thirty years it has been expanded to where some Republicans now question its costs. The lessons learned from this example Moffitt explained include: do "relevant" research on issues of current interest, find a champion who has an interest in your topic, find an intermediary who can connect the research to the policy maker, and "get lucky"-- bad times make policy makers open to new ideas.
David Schanzer, Professor at Duke University and Director of the Institute for Homeland Security Solutions, focused on the difficulties of using social/behavioral research in the area of homeland security. Like crime, homeland security policy has been emotionally-driven and affected by partisan polarization since 9/11. It has also been difficult to develop metrics for the policy debate, he said.
The creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by combining many bureaucratic structures also made the impact of research difficult. This has changed somewhat with the establishment of the DHS Centers of Excellence, particularly START at the University of Maryland and CREATE at the University of Southern California, both of which conduct social/behavioral/economic research related to terrorism. In addition, the nation's experiences during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts led then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates to call for enhanced social/behavioral research, which led to the Minerva Initiative (see Update, September 10, 2012). Yet, DHS, faced with severe budget cuts to its science and technology budget, has eviscerated its Human Factors division. In addition, Schanzer noted, in the current debate over Cybersecurity, the research about human/computer interactions has not received much traction. However, DHS's interest in research on who makes a good baggage screener and the effectiveness of the airport search process has increased its use of behavioral studies in these areas. Schanzer concluded by suggesting that the growth of intermediary institutions such as the blogosphere, think tanks, and others, should make translating what we know into policy easier, but so far this has not worked well.
Colloquium: Advancing Behavioral and Social Sciences to Meet the Challenges of Obesity and Diabetes
Griffin Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and co-chair of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Obesity Research Task Force, discussed the role of behavioral and social sciences in meeting the challenges associated with obesity and diabetes. NIDDK's mission is "to support and conduct research to combat diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases, liver and other digestive diseases, nutritional disorders, obesity, and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases."
He reviewed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data that shows approximately one-third of U.S. adults are obese, with recent significant increases among the young. At an annual cost of $147 billion, there are a host of complications and co-morbidities associated with obesity: stroke, coronary disease, diabetes, hypertension, certain cancers, osteoarthritis, obstructive sleep apnea, gout, non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases, gallbladder disease, and gynecologic abnormalities. At the same time, diabetes now affects approximately 25.8 million (8.3 percent of the population) individuals. Projections for 2050 indicate nearly 50 million cases of diabetes, as this disease is also increasing in the young, said Rodgers.
Strategic planning for both obesity and diabetes research emphasizes the role of behavioral and social sciences in prevention, management, and treatment. Basic behavioral social sciences research supported by NIDDK seeks to answer the question: Why do people behave as they do? It is also designed to further our understanding of fundamental mechanisms, processes, and patterns of behavioral and social functioning relevant to health and well-being. It includes how these factors interact with each other, biology, and the environment.
Rodgers also discussed the Institute's translation process; using basic science discoveries to develop new treatments and testing the use of proven therapies in clinical practice and community settings. One example of moving basic behavioral and social science research from the bench to the bedside to develop new treatments, said Rodgers, is the Obesity Related Intervention Trials (ORBIT), which consists of interdisciplinary teams of basic and applied basic behavioral and social science research (BSSR) scientists conducting studies at seven centers across the country. The goal is to translate basic BSSR findings into more effective clinical, community, and population interventions to reduce obesity.
Rodgers also reviewed the efficacy studies, clinical studies on prevention and treatment of overweight/obesity and Type 2 diabetes across the lifespan (intrauterine through old age), supported by the Institute that include social and behavioral research. These include the Time Sensitive Obesity Policy and Program Evaluation initiative which establishes an accelerated review/award process to support time-sensitive investigator-initiated research to evaluate a new policy or program expected to influence obesity related behaviors. Another example is the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR), a multi-agency, Foundation partnership to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and application of childhood obesity research, and to halt, even reverse, childhood obesity through enhanced coordination and collaboration. More information is available at http://nccor.org.
Rodgers announced the upcoming NIH Workshop to Advance Basic Behavioral Science in Obesity Research, on the NIH campus, April 24-25, 2013. Topic areas will include: impulsivity and executive function; memory and reward; and stress and self-regulation. For more information see: http://www2.niddk.nih.gov/News/Calendar/Obesity2013.htm.
Colloquium: Federal Funding for the Social/Behavioral Sciences: The Dangers Ahead
Mary Jo Hoeksema, Population Association of America, moderated a panel focused on the future of federal funding for social and behavioral science research and how the social science community can better advocate for itself to Congress.
From left, Mary Jo Hoeksema, Barbara Pryor, Dahlia Sokolov
Barbara Pryor, Senior Legislative Assistant for Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), spoke about the importance of the American Community Survey (ACS), which the House voted to eliminate in the spring (see Update, May 14, 2012), for policymaking. Lawmakers use the data to make informed decisions and determine where further investment is needed. Eliminating the ACS or making it voluntary (as advocated by some lawmakers) would hurt that data. The loss would be felt within a year, but Pryor said, by five years, it would be a "disaster." She argued that protecting the ACS is important enough for those in the social science community to become activists. In response to questions, Pryor noted that even for important projects, would-be advocates often expect that someone else will step up and lead the charge. While businesses use ACS data, they have other priorities and are unlikely to champion the survey. However, she noted, emphasizing that the business community will not oppose efforts to preserve the ACS could be helpful in convincing legislators.
Dahlia Sokolov, Democratic Staff Director of the House Research and Science Education Subcommittee, recommended ways the social and behavioral science community can become more active in its interaction with Congress. She noted that members tend to focus single-mindedly on the concept of STEM education. They need help understanding the value of social science. Sokolov expressed uncertainty about how changes in the leadership of the House Science Committee, to be chaired by Lamar Smith (R-TX), will play out next year. She called on the social science community to reach out to her colleagues on the Committee from both parties. Sokolov observed that in the past, social scientists have been hesitant to "sell" their work to Congress, hoping that it would speak for itself instead. She suggested social scientists use narratives to show how their work helps Americans and to point to tangible applications of their research.
Wendell Primus, Senior Policy Adviser to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), discussed the impending fiscal cliff and the prospects for a comprehensive debt deal. He told those present, "Your funding is tied to the fiscal cliff," and noted that the impact will be felt in both the long and short term. Primus predicted that a debt deal is likely to consist of two parts: an initial "down payment" agreement about revenues followed by a more comprehensive agreement next year covering entitlements and tax reform. He noted that of the $2.9 trillion in program cuts recommended by the Bowles-Simpson plan, $1.6 trillion has already been enacted (while none of the recommended $2.6 trillion in revenue increases has). In addition, Medicare cost reductions totaling $716 billion have also been enacted. Meanwhile, between 1979 and 2007, tax rates for the wealthiest one percent of Americans fell by more than seven percent, compared to a 3.7 percent drop for those in the 21st to 80th percentiles. Primus argued that we now face a choice between cutting taxes for the wealthy and breaking the promises we made to the elderly, disabled, and disadvantaged.
Colloquium: Interdisciplinary Research and the Role of the Disciplines
Ken Prewitt moderated this panel, which discussed areas where interdisciplinary research is thriving.
Myron Gutmann, Assistant Director for NSF's Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE), National Science Foundation (NSF), discussed the results of an analysis he conducted with Leah Nichols on interdisciplinary projects at NSF. The fact that "science increasingly operates at intersections" has led to changes in how NSF operates, Gutmann noted. His analysis comprised more than 14,000 awards SBE granted between 2000 and 2011. He identified interdisciplinary research by co-funding (when grants are funded by multiple directorates or programs at NSF) and according to a topic model (based on how frequently multiple disciplinary-specific words appear in proposals). Perception, Action and Cognition and Decision Risk and Management Science had the highest rate of co-funding; Political Science had the lowest. According to both types of analysis, disciplines with significant representation in the SBE portfolio include Biology, Computer and Information Science, Engineering, and Geosciences. Gutmann noted that more interdisciplinary interaction was uncovered by the topic model analysis than by co-funding. He also noted that the larger the amount of the award, the greater the likelihood of interdisciplinary research. (For a graphical representation of Gutmann's analysis, see the slides from his presentation.) Gutmann acknowledged that developing a single measurement for interdisciplinarity "masks the complexity of the concept," but argued that the SBE research is indeed "highly interdisciplinary."
Philip Rubin, Principal Assistant Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, identified the White House Neuroscience Initiative as one area where interdisciplinary research has thrived. Neurological diseases affect more than 50 million Americans a year and costs $500 billion annually in treatment costs. To find solutions to these problems, the White House established an Interagency Working Group on Neuroscience (IWGN) comprised of 20 departments and agencies, which was tasked with coordinating activities in neuroscience research and identifying transformative opportunities. The IWGN has identified a short list of topics for further research, which covers a wide range of disciplines including biology, chemistry, psychology, linguistics, medicine, physiology, and social science. In February 2013, it will publish an interim report detailing 5-10 areas for further research and will publish a final white paper with concrete recommendations for action in June 2013. Rubin highlighted the Brain Activity Map Project, which aims to reconstruct "the full record of neural activity across complete neural circuits," as a project that usefully integrates interdisciplinary research. The project requires advances in technology to look noninvasively at neurons, but also acknowledges that social and behavioral factors play a role in cognition that needs to be better understood. Rubin commented on the need to both continue strengthening disciplinary science while looking at interdisciplinary research as an opportunity to tackle new challenges.
Kaye Husbands Fealing, Committee on National Statistics, National Academy of Sciences (NAS),
discussed the NAS' Science of Science and Innovation Policy (SciSIP) program. SciSIP brings together researchers in a variety of fields to "encourage the development of models, frameworks, tools, and datasets comprising the evidentiary basis for science and innovation policy" and to develop a community of practice that includes researchers and consumers of science policy research. SciSIP supports research that is both multidisciplinary (bringing together multiple disciplines) and interdisciplinary (integrating multiple disciplines to create a new framework). SciSIP disciplines include economics, management science, sociology, psychology, political science, computer science, engineering, chemistry, physics, visual analytics, data development, and anthropology. Husbands Fealing shared some of her observations from the SciSIP principal investigators' conference in September (see Update, September 24, 2012). Some of the recurring themes in SciSIP research are: return on investment, the role of the government and universities in technology transfer, and regional/global networks. Husbands Fealing discussed a trend in the social sciences toward conducting research in teams and suggested that "specialization begets collaboration."
Colloquium: Broadening Participation in Science in a Diverse America
The first day of COSSA's 2012 Colloquium concluded with a robust discussion regarding "Broadening Participation in Science in a Diverse America." The panel consisted of Dorit Zuk, National Institutes of Health (NIH); Kellina Craig-Henderson, National Science Foundation (NSF); and Joan Y. Reede, Harvard Medical School.
From left, Dorit Zuk, Joan Reede, Kellina Craig-Henderson, Sally Hillsman
The panel's moderator, Sally Hillsman, American Sociological Association, led the discussion with a brief report on the Collaborative for Enhancing Diversity in Science (CEDS) recent May 24, 2012 workshop, Enhancing Diversity: Working Together to Develop Common Data, Measures and Standards. The workshop was designed to address the need to establish a more comprehensive and cohesive effort to track the many and various efforts of government, university, private foundations and associations to enhance minority participation in the sciences. For more information on the workshop see Update, June 12, 2012 and
Zuk reviewed the product of two working groups of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director. One, the "Biomedical Research Workforce," determined that NIH's efforts to support training for graduate students and post-docs was inadequate. The Working Group made a number of recommendations that would include supplementing and enhancing training experiences and revising peer review criteria, in order that these grants match demonstrated career outcomes and reduce time to degree. In addition, the group recommended that post-docs should have more access to NIH training grants and fellowships, including Early Independence Award and K99/R00 awards (they should double), and increased stipend levels. The Working Group also wanted NIH to better collect, analyze, and disseminate information about training and workforce needs.
Zuk then discussed NIH's responses to charges made by Ginther, et. al. in Science (see Update September 12, 2011) that the Institutes need greater diversity in the research workforce. Another working group to the Director also made recommendations in this area including: enhancing data collection and evaluation; strengthening mentoring, career preparation, and retention; increasing institutional support at universities and academic health centers, and at the NIH; and conducting research on possible unconscious bias. Zuk concluded by announcing that Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak would present the NIH's plans for implementing the recommendations from the two working groups at the December 6 meeting of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (see related story). Additional information from the two working groups is available here.
Craig-Henderson began by citing the September 2012 National Academies of Science report, Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation, which noted the urgent need to expand participation in STEM fields, currently at just over nine percent, because at the moment the U.S. relies on non-U.S. citizens and international students for large number of STEM doctorates and employees. This cannot continue because of stricter visa requirements and increasingly competitive opportunities in countries of origin, Craig-Henderson argued.
She then reviewed accumulated research findings across the various social science fields that describe implicit bias, stereotype threat, and other phenomena that URGs experience. NSF, Craig-Henderson indicated, was beginning a significant effort to stimulate the Science of Broadening Participation (SBP) (The expanded solicitation for this program is below). Craig-Henderson sees SBP as "potentially transforming," since "ultimately this kind of work can disrupt our existing paradigms." Employing these various empirical approaches, she asserted, can yield sometimes interesting and counterintuitive results, citing research that finds assertiveness training does not improve women's ability to negotiate and that "diversity training does not lead to greater diversity in senior management."
Reede described her experiences and lessons learned from her years as director of the Harvard Medical School (HMS) Office for Diversity Inclusion and Community Partnership. There is a rich literature, Reede explained, regarding the barriers to achieving diversity: inadequate opportunity, lack of preparation, lack of awareness, insufficient resources, inadequate relationships with mentors, networks, and supports, as well as institutional barriers (culture, policies and practices). So the first lesson, she stressed, is that broadening participation must be central to the mission of your organization; otherwise it is not taken seriously.
She emphasized that there are multiple stages in the academic pipeline that need collaboration. Regarding creativity, she noted that we continue to do the same thing we have always done and wonder why we keep getting the same results. Communication, particularly today, looks very different and has to be targeted to specific audiences and academic levels. At the same time, there needs to be a consideration of the many types of diversity with commitment across the system. All too often, she pointed out, we have diversity programs at the federal level down to the institutional level that are supported for a brief period of time with the expectation of amazing results and wonderment as to why we don't achieve what we want.
According to Reede, further lessons she has learned from the various diversity programs HMS has instituted, include
- Build talent pipeline through seamless articulation of programs-- both internally and externally.
- Create opportunities for multiple points of entry and exit.
- Have flexibility in programming that is responsive to emergent environmental and policy changes and to local needs.
- Engage teachers and parents and community (internal and external) as vehicle for affecting student outcomes.
- Be willing to cross disciplinary boundaries.
- Recognize the importance of systems.
- Attend to career development that is coupled with mentoring and skill attainment.
Colloquium: The Future of Work
This panel discussion on the future of the labor market was moderated by Howard Silver, COSSA's executive director.
Dixie Sommers, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), discussed the Bureau's work in identifying the education and experience requirements for different occupations. She noted that the labor market is messy; requirements for a given occupation are not clear cut and multiple paths can lead to the same job. The projections are published in the Occupational Outlook Handbook and include all types of jobs, industries, and occupations. For each occupation, the BLS projects employment in 2010 and 2020, employment change, job openings, and distribution of educational attainment (data that comes from the American Community Survey). Sommers noted that while the data can show the distribution across different educational levels, it does not include enough information to explain unexpected results (such as why 10% of parking lot attendants in 2009 held a bachelor's degree). For each occupation, the BLS shows the typical level of education needed for entry, the amount of related work experience needed, and the amount of on-the-job training needed. These categories are based on analyses of data from the American Community Survey, the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), and qualitative information from those in the fields. Sommers acknowledged that these categorizations cannot depict multiple paths of entry or changes in entry requirements over time. The educational category projected to have the most jobs through 2020 is still high school diploma or equivalent.
Sommers discussed several alternative approaches to projecting change in educational requirements in the labor force. She characterized the BLS's approached as a "classification approach" and contrasted it with a "computational approach," implemented by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce and a report from the Urban Institute. This approach projects the overall change in education attainment of the labor force and then applies that change to the educational distribution and projected employment for each occupation. This approach produces different results: the Georgetown analysis projects that 23 percent of jobs will require a bachelor's degree by 2019, and the Urban Institute report projects 20.9 percent by 2017. By contrast, the BLS projects that in 2020, 15.8 percent of jobs will be in occupations that have a bachelor's degree as the typical entry-level education. Sommers closed by calling attention to the data gap about the connection between education and the job market.
Arne Kalleberg, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, spoke about job quality. He noted that in times of high unemployment, there is a tendency to focus on job quantity at the expense of paying attention to the nature of the jobs being created. Putting this dynamic in a historical context, he noted that the end of World War II led to macro-level changes in the labor market that put pressure on employers to provide higher quality jobs. This led to a period of relatively stability and increased equality, which Kalleberg characterized as a social contract between labor and business. Since the mid- 1970's, social forces have shifted the balance back to employers, and the labor market is now characterized by increased polarization and precarity (which, Kalleberg emphasized, is the norm for the U.S. labor market). Kalleberg used the term "polarization" to describe both the decline in mid-wage jobs (which he attributes in part to the decline in union power) and the growth in income inequality. "Precarity" refers to growth in precarious work, including increases in non-standard employment (temporary and contract), long-term unemployment, shifting risks from employer to employee, and perceptions of employment insecurity.
Kalleberg noted that a number of factors (including the economic crisis, the aging of the workforce, the growth in workforce diversity, etc.) are creating pressure to address these problems in the labor market. This could lead to the formation of a new social contract, comprised of mechanisms for income security, skill reproduction security, and representation security. Actors involved in forming this contract would include the government, business, and labor (though not necessarily traditional unions). Kalleberg acknowledged that a number of obstacles could slow the formation of this contract, including the economic crisis (leading workers to take any job if there is no "good" job available), a reliance on market mechanisms, political gridlock, high taxes, and weak support for organized labor. He suggested several strategies for implementing a new social contract: using already-established public-private partnerships, building on existing institutional mechanisms to expand the social safety net, and calling attention to broader "bridging issues" like health care, work-life balance, and energy/green jobs.
Harry Holzer, Georgetown University, discussed his research on "good" jobs (jobs that pay more than expected based on labor market supply and demand). Holzer's analysis is based the Census Bureau's Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) data, which allows for the calculation of "firm effects" and "worker effects" (the premiums paid above or below the market value), which are interpreted as measurements of job and skill quality. Holzer's findings show that good workers tend to be matched with good firms, and "firms only invest in relatively high-quality workers." He discussed three policy approaches to these findings. First, invest in skills employers' need, particularly by improving the quality of career and technical education and the responsiveness of higher education to those needs. Second, create incentives for employers to offer better jobs, which can be accomplished by providing technical assistance to employers, offering tax credits and subsidies, and including good jobs as part of a broad economic strategy (there is a role for collective bargaining and regulation here, but it is limited). Finally, the support system for low-skill/low-wage workers needs improvement, including expanding the earned income tax credit (EITC), and implementing wage insurance.
Colloquium: Maximizing Data Opportunities in Child Development and Education
Marty Zaslow, Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), moderated this panel and said it is crucial to extend data sets to include early childhood, postsecondary and career data.
From left, Jack Buckley, Jim Kohlmoos, Elizabeth Groginsky
Jim Kohlmoos, National Association of State Boards of Education, stated that the U.S education system is faced with a series of crises from states facing prolonged budgetary cuts, perceived international pressure and competition that has caused us to question what we are doing and where we are going, and disruptions caused by current systemic initiatives, like the common core. Kohlmoos believes data and data systems can be a mediating force to deal with all of the turbulence. But he said the data industry needs to refocus on doing a better job of finding out what the end user actually needs and providing data that is ready to use and easy to understand.
Since 2006, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has given $500 million to states to help them develop student longitudinal data systems and assist in the creation of a common language between systems, called the Common Education Data Standards program. NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley said the goal is to see data in real time, as opposed to in the past where you couldn't get a good assessment of a student's academic development until the end of the school year or sometimes even the next year. Buckley said part of the solution to making data more accessible will be fixing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to allow data systems to link as much data as possible. This will help clear up the confusion among administrators, principals and states to understand what data can be shared and with whom. NCES is also redesigning its National Household Education Survey to help boost its response rate and has assembled a working group to develop survey instruments to measure non-degree attainment (i.e. certificates and certifications) as part of President Obama's college completion initiative. In addition, budget considerations, Buckley reported, will lead to the cancellation of the School Survey on Crime and Safety.
The Early Childhood Data Collaborative (ECDC), housed at Child Trends, supports state policymakers' development and use of education data systems to improve the quality of early childcare education programs and their workforce. The ECDC also encourages state policy changes by providing a national forum to support the development and use education data systems. Elizabeth Groginsky, executive director of ECDC, said data systems for children need to start much earlier than kindergarten. Research has shown developmental disparities start as early as nine months, before most studies start tracking children. She called on researchers to move beyond looking at children, especially at-risk children, at just snapshots in time and to focus more on conducting longitudinal studies. In addition, gaps remain, particularly on child development outcomes. Although establishing early childhood data systems is emerging as a policy priority, Groginsky believes more federal investment and guidance is necessary to encourage states and localities to build capacity to improve their efforts in this arena.
The road to building robust and useful data systems "is not a question of innovation but of implementation," said Kohlmoos.
New Congress Starts Organizing: Lamar Smith to Chair SST; Lowey Wins Ranking on Appropriations
The organization of the 113th Congress that will convene on January 3, 2013 began with the election of party leaders in the House and the announcement of Republican Committee Chairs. The key leaders of the 112th Congress, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Assistant Minority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), remain the same for the new body.
Rep. Lamar Smith
The Republicans selected Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) as the new head of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Smith won out over Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) in a vote of the Steering Committee and subsequently ratified by the House Republican Caucus. Smith had chaired the Judiciary Committee in the 112th Congress, but had to give it up under the GOP rule limiting members to six years as chair of ranking member of a panel. On that panel he worked with Democrats on cybersecurity issues, patent reform, and increasing visas for skilled workers. He opposed immigration reform proposals like the Dream Act.
Smith, whose Texas district stretches from the outskirts of Austin to the suburbs of San Antonio, has been in Congress since 1987. Smith has been on the Science panel since his election to Congress, but has not been particularly active. He has expressed skepticism about global warming and the impact of human activity on climate change.
The Committee will continue to have an all-Texas leadership, as the Democrats will continue Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) as Ranking Member.
In other GOP Committee decisions, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) will replace Smith as Judiciary panel head. He has been very interested in high-tech issues. Rep. Mike MCaul (R-TX), another Texan replaces the term-limited Rep. Peter King (R-NY) as head of the Homeland Security committee. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), another Texan, will head the Financial Services Committee.
Romney vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) received a waiver to remain as head of the Budget Committee. The Democrats will keep Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) as Ranking Member. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) will remain as head of the Oversight and Government Reform, while Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) will continue as leader of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the National Institutes of Health's authorization.
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) will stay the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. The Democrats selected Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) as the Ranking Member. Announcements of the Subcommittee leaders for the spending committee will come later.
The Senate organization will probably take place in early January. The resignation of Sen. James DeMint (R-SC), to lead the Heritage Foundation, means a different replacement for retired Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) as the Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) may get the slot.
NICHD Releases "Scientific Vision: The Next Decade"
On December 6, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development released "Scientific Vision: the Next Decade." Director Alan Guttmacher notes in the message from the director that the Institute's 50th anniversary inspired it to "set compelling research directions for the future." He acknowledged that doing so "was no easy task." The Institute's science "spans the understanding of the basic mechanisms that transform cells into health and effectively functioning individuals, to clinical studies that can improve the lifelong health and well-being being women, children, and those with disabilities." According to Guttmacher, the resulting Vision Statement includes key concepts derived from workshops and the white papers they produced.
The Vision Statement is divided into eight distinct sections: developmental biology, developmental origins of health and disease, pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes, reproductions, behavior and cognition, plasticity and rehabilitation, population dynamics, and conduct of science. The Vision is expected to inform an Institute-wide strategic planning process, to begin in early 2013.
Developmental Origins of Health and Disease -- We now know that the complex interactions between many different biological and external factors, starting before conception, can influence development across the life course and across generations. Unraveling this complex interplay demands a new level of understanding and sophisticated delineation of systemic pathways. Key to this is how specific genetic, biological, environmental, behavioral and social factors interact over time to influence health and disease.
Behavior and Cognition -- Behavioral factors can significantly promote positive health outcomes or increase the risk of adverse ones. Similarly, cognition-- with its key relationships to neurodevelopment and learning-- is part of a lifelong process that underlies overall human functioning. Basic translational research that combines neuropsychological, behavioral, and social science perspectives, as well as new tools, will advance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying typical and atypical behavior and cognition. Within the next ten years, scientists should be able to: (1) identify 5,000 genetic variants that influence behavior or cognition traits; (2) fully understand the neurobiological bases, delineate the full developmental spectrum and trajectories, and identify the key biologic markers for five behavioral and cognitive disorders; and (3) identify the causes of autism spectrum disorder and begin to employ that knowledge to develop effective and targeted interventions.
Population Dynamics -- Some of the fundamentals of population dynamics rest on the understanding that individuals, families, and communities that are critical units through which population-level factors interact with genetic and other biological and environmental variables. These interactions, in turn, can influence, if not determine, individual health across the lifespan. Understanding how the forces that shape populations can influence health, together with understanding why some populations with similar genetic endowments and environmental exposures experience diverse health outcomes can inform the development of effective population- and community-based interventions and can help identify factors that can eliminate health disparities.
Within the next ten years, scientists should be able to: (1) catalog and identify interrelated environmental and genetic factors that are key to mediating the health of individuals, families, and, communities, focusing particularly on populations with distinct genetic characteristics or environmental exposures; and (2) understand the changing population dynamics associated with increasing the health and longevity of persons with a range of physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities and, based on this knowledge, develop better community- and population-based health care and living options for individuals with intellectual, developmental, and physical differences.
Conduct of Science -- The NICHD's scientific Visioning process identified not only many promising opportunities across the scope of the Institute's mission, but also more universal ideas about how we must conduct science to enhance future progress in virtually all areas of biomedical research. One avenue to success will involve finding multiple ways to advance transdisciplinary science. Another will involve creating novel approaches to address the vast amount of scientific information to be accumulated from complex longitudinal studies and repositories housing lifetimes of biological specimens. Opportunities must increase for researchers from different disciplines and institutions to obtain joint funding and publish together.
Within the next ten years, scientists should be able to: (1) Develop biorepositories that capture the diversity of the U.S. population; (2) involve the public in better reporting, identification, and definition of normal life processes, including pregnancy, child development, and adolescence; and (3) Change the predominant model for data use to one of open access.
The complete Visioning statement is available for download at:
NIH Announces Implementation Plans of the Workforce/Diversity ACD Working Group's Recommendations
NIH announced its plans to implement the recommendations regarding the biomedical workforce and diversity at the 105th biannual meeting of the Advisory Committee to the NIH director on December 6, 2012. Accordingly, the agency is seeking to launch multiple initiatives.
Regarding diversity in the biomedical research workforce, the agency plans to implement four interrelated approaches:
1. Launch a new NIH program called Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) program. The program is designed to provide mentored research experiences for undergraduate students at participating schools for two summers and two years post graduation; tuition scholarships for up to two years as undergraduates and the possibility of loan repayment in graduate school; faculty support for training highly effective mentors; and innovation space to develop new approaches for increasing diversity in the PhD training pathway.
2. Establish a National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) to connect students, post doctoral fellows, and faculty with experienced mentors; develop standards of good mentorship in biomedical research; and provide workshops and training opportunities in grantsmanship. The Plan includes the creation of a BUILD and NRMN Coordinating and Evaluation Center which will create and maintain a database that can be fully interrogated of mentors and mentees that will include personal and organizational demographics; productivity measures; outcome measures for individuals and institutions. There will be connections with tracking proposed in the implementation of the biomedical workforce. The Center will perform analyses requested by NIH and the Consortium members in priority order as determined by an Independent Data Access Committee. It will be responsible for integrating and coordinating all trans-consortium activities and will conduct an annual meeting of the Consortium for a means to facilitate the sharing of science and best practices with all participants.
The Consortium is deemed important because networking has become increasingly important element in the conduct of modern science, and additional analysis by Donna Ginther et al. shows that Black applicants have significant fewer publications, citations, and co-authors. It is expected that the Consortium will also link trainees and investigators from groups that have been underrepresented in science to majority investigators.
The BUILD/ NRMN Consortium will be funded via the NIH Common Fund which supports trans-NIH initiatives up to ten years. NIH intends to issue planning grants in FY 2013 and conduct regional technical workshops to add applicant organizations that may wish to apply. The agency estimates the average yearly support over the initial life of the program to approximately $50 million per year. The agency welcomes partnerships with other funding sources to expand the program.
3. Promote fairness in peer review through interventions including implicit bias and diversity awareness training for both scientific review officers and members of peer review panels, and piloting a program that would make grant applications completely anonymous. The agency plans to form expert, ad-hoc, subcommittees of the ACD Working Group on Diversity to examine multiple hypotheses, including the role of unconscious bias, related to disparities in research awards.
4. Increase engagement of NIH leadership via: the creation an NIH Steering Committee Working Group on Diversity, "thus making diversity a core consideration of NIH governance; recruitment of a Chief Diversity Officer who will coordinate NIH initiatives designed to enhance diversity of NIH-funded research workforce, oversee a prospective evaluation of existing NIH programs designed to enhance diversity of the NIH-funded extramural and intramural research workforce, and be a practicing scientist that will work collaboratively across the NIH to increase the diversity of intramural researchers."
To implement the recommendations from the Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group, the NIH intends to:
- Enhance training of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers through a grants program that would support innovative approaches to complement traditional research training and by encouraging the adoption of individual development plans for all trainees;
- Explore increased support for training mechanisms designed to accelerate the development of independent research career, including the NIH Pathway to Independence Awards (K99/R00) and the Early Independence Awards;
- Increase emphasis on ongoing assessment of the biomedical research workforce, including a proposed follow-up study on clinician scientists; and
- Identify and track more comprehensively all graduate students and postdoctoral researchers supported by NIH to provide a sound basis for assessing workforce needs and planning future training activities. More comprehensive career outcomes data would help to inform prospective graduate students and postdoctoral researchers contemplating careers in biomedical research.
Richard Nakamura Named Director of the Center for Scientific Review
On December 3, National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Francis Collins announced the appointment of Richard Nakamura as the new director for the NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR). Nakamura has been serving as the acting director since September 2011.
Nakamura previously spent 32 years at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), where he served as both its Scientific Director and Deputy Director. He also was Acting Director of the NIMH from 2001 to 2002. He started at NIMH in 1976 as a postdoctoral fellow. In the mid-80's he coordinated NIMH's Biobehavioral Program and later was Chief of its Integrative Neuroscience Research Branch. Between 1997 and 2007, he served as the institute's Deputy Director. He was the Institute's Scientific Director from 2007 to 2011. While at NIMH, he also has held other positions, including Associate Director for Science Policy and Program Planning; Chief, Behavioral and Integrative Neuroscience Research Branch; and Coordinator, ADAMHA Office of Animal Research Issues. During his time at NIMH, he received a number of leadership awards, including the prestigious Presidential Rank Award.
Nakamura earned his B.A. in psychology from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, his M.A. in psychology from New York University, and his Ph.D. in psychology from the State University of New York in Stony Brook. He has expertise in a number of areas, including cognitive and comparative neuroscience, science policy/funding and ethics in science. He has published 30 peer reviewed scientific journal articles, most related to neurocognition in primates.
As CSR director Nakamura will lead CSR's 450 scientists and administrative staff, overseeing their efforts to manage 80,000 incoming NIH grant applications a year and review the majority of them in CSR peer review groups.
PCORI Adopts Revised Methodology Standards
In November, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Board of Governors adopted 47 revised Methodology Standards designed to guide the conduct of patient-centered outcomes research as recommended by its Methodology Committee. The revised methods standards were based on the Committee's analysis and review of 124 sets of solicited public comments. A full narrative report providing context for the standards will be made available in spring 2013.
The Methodology Committee also provided 62 recommendations for actions and research related to: patient centeredness, dissemination, research prioritization, general and crosscutting methods for all patient-centered research, and design-specific methods.
NCHS Launches Interactive Website for Health, United States
The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) launched a new interactive website for one of its major publications, Health, United States, 2011, In Brief. The site allows users to "view, create, and export charts and tables; incorporate additional data from the full Health, United States report; and easily link to related Web pages." In many cases, data from previous years is also available. The website was created using interactive software from the National Library of Medicine. It can be accessed by visiting: http://archive.nlm.nih.gov/proj/IP/hus11/InBrief.html.
Sen. Murray Emphasizes the Importance of Non-Defense Programs amidst Budget Negotiations
As we enter the final weeks of the year with no deficit deal and, thus, off the "fiscal cliff," politicians on both sides of the aisle are staking out ground for the negotiations ahead. Speaking to a group of stakeholders in the "NDD" (non-defense discretionary) community at a town hall meeting on December 4, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the incoming chair of the Senate Budget Committee, made the case for preventing additional cuts to domestic programs. She argued that the budget debate is really about our values and priorities as a nation and noted that the economic crisis has hurt the most vulnerable Americans most.
Murray argued that instead of making more cuts to the programs that assist these disadvantaged populations, the wealthiest Americans should be called on to pay their fair share. She framed the failure of the Supercommittee in 2011 (which she co-chaired) as the fault of Republicans' unwillingness to compromise. She asserted that the election was a vindication of the Democrats' position on the budget.
Murray suggested that while sequestration would be extremely damaging, taking a "bad deal" (that does not balance cuts with revenue increases) to avoid it would be even worse. She noted that the non-defense discretionary programs have already been cut by over $1 trillion and that those programs are the one part of the budget that is shrinking, not growing. She expressed hope that some of her Republican colleagues can break their no-tax pledge to Grover Norquist and noted that the Senate recently passed a bill to renew all of the Bush tax cuts except those in the wealthiest bracket, which the President has promised to sign if passed by the House. Murray concluded by reiterating that this debate is about more than just numbers, "it is about our values as a nation."
Brookings Panel Discusses Poverty Policy in the Next Four Years
On December 5, the Center on Children and Families at Brookings and Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity held a joint event, A Poverty and Opportunity Agenda: What's in Store for the Next Four Years,to examine the impact of the election on programs affecting the poor. Intense pressure remains on both parties to reduce spending on safety net programs as a means of addressing the nation's budget deficit. The question the event addressed is how these threats to enact major cuts will affect anti-poverty programs like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
"It's not whether we cut spending, but how we cut spending," said Gene Sperling, Director of National Economic Council. Tevi Troy, currently with the Hudson Institute and former Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services under George W. Bush, said "In a crisis the poor get hurt first and worst." Low-skill low-wage jobs are often the first eliminated, safety net programs for the poor get indiscriminately cut, and the poor have less of an economic cushion to fall back on to lessen the blows of job loss and cuts to social programs.
Isabel Sawhill, co-director of the Center for Children and Families, which co-sponsored the event, stated that there are three things that decrease the likelihood of poverty and reduce our nation's poverty rate: graduating from high school, working full-time, and not having children outside of wedlock, especially when you're young. The nation should design its policies to promote these things to help prevent and lift people out of poverty, said Sawhill.
Although teen pregnancy is at in lowest levels in decades, where we haven't made as much progress is with young adult women in their early 20s. For women under the age of 30, half of all pregnancies are to single mothers, and half of these are unintended pregnancies. Sawhill stated that we need to do more to ensure children are born to parents who want and are ready to be parents. Ron Haskins, her co-director at the Center for Children and Families, agreed stating that children often do not get the stability they need from single-parent families. Children raised in single-parent homes are more likely to live in poverty, experience low school performance, drop out of school, become incarcerated and have children outside of marriage.
The current poverty level is around 15 percent, with one in eight Americans receiving SNAP benefits. While Sawhill believes that we need to preserve the basic safety net of programs for the poor, JoAnne Barnhart, former commissioner of the Social Security Administration, believes that incremental increases to anti-poverty programs are not going to reduce poverty in either the short or long term. What is needed, she contended, is an increase in economic opportunities, i.e. jobs, to help lift people out of poverty.
Though the U.S government spends about $1 trillion on means-tested poverty programs, Troy noted, poverty is still with us and still endemic. "We need to come up with a better way of doing things," he concluded.
COSSA Elects James Jackson as its Next President; Five to Join Board of Directors
The Consortium's Board of Directors, at its meeting on November 30, elected James S. Jackson, Director of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, as its new president. Jackson will serve a two-year term commencing on January 1, 2013. He succeeds Ken Prewitt, who served during 2011-2012.
Jackson is also the Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and a Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University's School of Public Health. His research focuses on issues of racial and ethnic influences on life course development, attitude change, reciprocity, social support, and coping and health among blacks in the Diaspora. He currently directs the National Survey of American Life and the Family Survey Across Generations and Nations, as well as the National Study of Ethnic Pluralism and Politics.
His recent publications include "African Americans in a Diversifying Nation" and "Age Cohort, Ancestry, and Immigration Status Influences on Family Relations and Psychological Well-being among Three Generation Caribbean Black Families."
An elected member of the Institute of Medicine, Jackson serves on many National Research Council and National Academies Boards and Committees. He is also a founding member of the new Aging Research Network of the MacArthur Foundation. He has served as Director of the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies and past president of the Society for the Psychological Studies of Social Problems, Association of Black Psychologists.
He is the recipient of the Distinguished Career Contributions to Research Award, Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues, American Psychological Association, and recently received the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award for Distinguished Career Contributions in Applied Psychology from the Association for Psychological Sciences.
Jackson has spoken at COSSA Annual Meetings, including the 30th Anniversary celebration, and served as an At-Large Member of the Board. He earned his Ph.D. from Wayne State University.
In addition, five new At-Large Members will join the COSSA Board of Directors for two-year terms beginning on January 1, 2013. They are:
Wendy Baldwin is President of the Population Reference Bureau. She is a former Vice President of the Population Council, Executive Vice President for Research at the University of Kentucky, and former Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health.
Charles A. Johnson is Senior Associate Vice President for Research at Texas A&M University. He is a former Dean of Liberal Arts, and Chairman of the Department of Political Science at A&M.
Elizabeth Loftus is Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Irvine, where she holds positions in the Departments of Psychology and Social Behavior, and Criminology, Law and Society, as well as the Law School.
Yonette Thomas is Associate Vice President for Research Compliance at Howard University. Formerly, she was Chief of the Epidemiology Research Branch at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Senior Program Officer at the Institute of Medicine.
Marta Tienda is Professor of Demographic Studies and Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, where she also previously directed the Office of Population Research. A past President of the Population Association of America, she is currently a member of the Commission on Key National Indicators and the President's Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
Prewitt remains on the Board as Immediate Past President.
NSF Celebrates Graduate Research Fellow Program's 60th Anniversary; Announces New International Component
The National Science Foundation (NSF) celebrated the 60th Anniversary of its Graduate Research Fellowship Program on December 5 with a ceremony at its headquarters in Virginia. The GRFP is the nation's oldest fellowship program directly supporting graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. Fellows receive a stipend that has grown from $1,200 a year to $30,000 a year over the past 60 years. The key to the program according to its recipients is the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of higher education.
The Program has supported over 46,500 fellows, who have included such famous names as current Secretary of Energy Steven Chu (who spoke at the celebration), current Presidential Science Adviser John Holdren, current Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Ben Bernanke, current University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer (who also spoke at the celebration), and former Harvard President and Obama Economics Adviser Lawrence Summers. Former Fellows have also won numerous Nobel Prizes, MacArthur Genius Awards, and many other scientific prizes.
The ceremony also included awards given to Fellows who produced 90 second films about their research. The winners were: Erica Staaterman of the University of Miami for her film "Sonic Reef," Candy Hwang of the University of Southern California for her animated film "The Secrets of Nitrogenase," and Eric Keen of the University of California, San Diego for his film "Whales in Fjords: Fin Whale Habitat Use and Vocalizations in a Developmental Coastal Corridor."
During the celebration, NSF Director Subra Suresh announced a new component to the program. Designated Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW), it will allow the graduate research fellows to spend from three months to a year collaborating at science and engineering research sites overseas. This will add extra funding to the Fellows' stipend from the international collaborating science agencies, so far in eight countries: Denmark, Finland, France, Japan, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, and South Korea. NSF hopes that this list will expand in the near future.
For more information about the GROW program go to:
SBE, EHR to Sponsor Research on the Science of Broadening Participation
In a Dear Colleague letter released on December 4, the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) and Education and Human Resources (EHR) directorates have announced they will join together to support the Science of Broadening Participation (SBP). SBE had previously initiated funding for this issue.
According to the Letter, the goal is "to employ the social, behavioral, economic and education sciences to inform approaches to increasing the access and involvement of underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and to strengthen our national STEM capabilities and competitive advantage." The research should inform STEM educators, STEM employers, and policy makers and provide the evidence needed for informed decisions and the design of programs and interventions.
According to the directorates, in FY 2013, "EHR and SBE will partner to support research that uses the theories, methods, and analytic techniques of the social, behavioral, economic, and educational sciences to better understand the barriers as well as factors that enhance our ability to broaden participation in STEM."
NSF is particularly interested in research proposals that will contribute to the overall understanding of the positive and negative factors impacting the participation of underrepresented individuals in STEM education and careers. Proposals may focus on the following types of empirical research projects:
Institutional and organizational factors, e.g., studies of organizational structural, cultural or climate factors that impact STEM participation
Cultural and social factors, e.g., studies of psychological or behavior factors that affect STEM participation and achievement rates
Economic and policy-related factors, e.g., studies of economic factors that impact STEM participation and the relationship between broader participation and social innovation
Intervention strategies, e.g., studies of strategies that when implemented can improve the representation and participation of women, minorities and persons with disabilities who are under-represented in STEM fields
Translational and applied factors, e.g., studies of translational variables and processes that can be implemented in educational and organizational settings.
SBE and EHR anticipate that these research proposals will come from each of the fields represented within these directorates. Some examples of potential research questions related to the Science of Broadening Participation include but are not limited to:
- What are the underlying psychological and social issues affecting the different participation and graduation rates in STEM of women, men, persons with disabilities, and racial and ethnic minorities?
- Under which conditions do behavioral, economic, and socio-legal factors influence recruitment and retention in STEM education at the individual, meso, and macro levels?
- What aspects of preK-12, informal, and higher education learning environments and workplace culture enhance the positive factors and moderate the negative factors impacting underrepresented minorities, women, and/or persons with disabilities?
- What are effective methods of increasing the capacity of minority-serving institutions and community colleges to produce more STEM graduates who are highly qualified for the STEM workforce and graduate school?
- What behavioral or economic processes result in outcomes that are associated with success in STEM?
- How does cultural integration with the STEM curriculum affect student success?
- What approaches are successful in ensuring that young people do not lose interest in science during adolescence?
- What are the impacts of a diverse STEM workforce on scientific productivity and innovation and the national economy?
In FY 2013, scholars may submit SBP proposals to any of the EHR education research programs http://www.nsf.gov/dir/index.jsp?org=EHR or any of the SBE standing programs http://www.nsf.gov/dir/index.jsp?org=SBE. With both directorates researchers should indicate they are submitting an SBP proposal by so designating it at the beginning of the proposal title.
Questions about SBP proposals can be sent to SBP@nsf.gov. Specific questions about an EHR or SBE program should be directed to the program director of the standing program.
For the full Dear Colleague letter, go to: http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2013/nsf13020/nsf13020.jsp?WT.mc_id=USNSF_25&WT.mc_ev=click.
This is the last Update for 2012. Update will return on January 14, 2013. A Happy and Joyous Holiday to All our Readers and here's hoping nobody falls off a cliff, fiscal or otherwise!
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Executive Director: Howard J. Silver
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Assistant Director for Government Relations: LaTosha C. Plavnik
Assistant Director for Public Affairs: Julia Milton
President: Kenneth Prewitt
Address all inquiries to COSSA at firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: (202) 842-3525
The Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) is an advocacy organization promoting attention to and federal support for the social and behavioral sciences.
UPDATE is published 22 times per year. ISSN 0749-4394.