APA Testimony on Fiscal Year 2005 Appropriations for NSF, NASA, and VA

Written Testimony of Merry Bullock, Ph.D.
On behalf of the American Psychological Association

Submitted March 18, 2004 to the
United States House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies
The Honorable James T. Walsh, Chair

Fiscal Year 2005 Appropriations for the National Science Foundation,
National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
and Department of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Dr. Merry Bullock, Acting Executive Director for Science at the American Psychological Association. I am submitting testimony on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA), a scientific and professional organization of more than 150,000 psychologists and affiliates. Because our behavioral scientists play vital roles within the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), APA will address the proposed Fiscal Year 2005 research budgets for each of these three agencies.

National Science Foundation

As a member of the larger science community and an active leader in the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), APA thanks Congress and the Administration for completing the NSF Authorization Act of 2002. Although we strongly support funding NSF at the authorized level of $7.38 billion for FY05, in contrast to the President's budget request of $5.75 billion, we recognize that this is an extremely tough budget year. We therefore urge the Committee to instead increase NSF's funding by the authorized proportion (15%) over current levels for a total of $6.44 billion in FY05.

We also want to highlight the importance of increasing support for the Foundation-wide special research priority in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences ("Human and Social Dynamics") to $30 million in FY05.

Core Psychological Research at NSF

NSF is the only federal agency whose primary mission is to support basic research and education in math, engineering and science - including behavioral and social science. NSF's investment in basic research across these disciplines has allowed for extraordinary scientific and technological progress, ensuring continued economic growth, improvements in the design, implementation and evaluation of public education, strengthened national security, and the generation of cutting edge new knowledge.

The necessity to support basic research continues to be paramount. With the increasing globalization of science, the U.S. faces greater-than-ever competition for scientific innovation and discovery. At the same time that we must work in international communities of researchers and scholars, we must find new ways to make our country safe from threats not only to our physical structures but to the American tradition of shared and freely accessible science and to the many challenges we face at home. Our best defense is a strategy of offense in which we continue producing the best science, ideas, and technology. We can do this only on the basis of a solid foundation of basic research.

Although psychologists receive funding from diverse programs within NSF, most core psychological research is supported by the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE), with its focus on the variables that determine human behavior across all ages, affect interactions among individuals and groups, and decide how social and economic systems develop and change. In addition to core behavioral research in cognitive neuroscience, human cognition and perception, learning and development, and social psychology, SBE also will support a Special Research Priority in Human and Social Dynamics (HSD) in 2005. Given the pace and demands of our increasingly technological society, APA strongly supports an investment of $30 million in Fiscal Year 2005 for the HSD priority area, to further explore interactions among society, its institutions, its people, and technology. Psychologists and other behavioral and social scientists are uniquely poised to address the complex issue of how people and organizations can better understand and manage the profound and rapid societal changes we face - through research on decision-making, risk and uncertainty; adaptation and resistance to technological change; the evolution of society and its interaction with climate, geography and environment; and ways in which human performance can be enhanced in conjunction with advances in biology, engineering, nanotechnology, robotics and information technology.

The Biological Sciences Directorate at NSF also provides support for research psychologists who ask questions about the very principles and mechanisms that govern life at the level of the genome and cell, or at the level of a whole individual, family or species. However, we are concerned about diminishing support for key behavioral research programs within this Directorate, most notably, those focused on learning and cognition. NSF recognizes the importance of learning and cognition to many branches of science already, and supports Foundation-wide initiatives and individual research projects that seek to understand the neural or genetic mechanisms by which learning occurs, that use learning as an assay for the effects of environmental change on a biological system, that construct and evaluate artificial learning systems, that conceptualize the role of learning in biodiversity and evolution and that apply learning principles to education and workforce challenges. However, NSF support for the basic science of learning and cognition - the science that serves as the foundation for these various research programs - is very limited, especially in non-human animal models. Because of its profound potential, APA urges Congress to direct NSF to reinvigorate this fundamental element of its research portfolio.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Humans perform critical functions throughout all aspects of every NASA mission from concept development, system design and acquisition through operations. People are critical elements of complex aerospace systems. The ability to measure and predict human performance through all mission phases enhances mission safety and mission success. NASA Human Factors research and technology enhance the national capability to explore the stars and understand our own planet while contributing to the safety, affordability and efficiency of aerospace operations.

Office of Biological and Physical Research

In order to continue advancing our understanding of human adaptation to space, APA supports the Administration request of $491.5 million in FY05 to advance Biological Sciences Research within the Office of Biological and Physical Research (OBPR).

Last year at this time, the nation was just beginning to mourn the crew of Columbia and while we still grieve for all those lost in the conquest of space, we are encouraged and emboldened by a new vision from this Administration. With a renewed commitment to extend our human presence in space NASA is demonstrating an unprecedented interest in psychological and behavioral research. That interest stems from the recognition that space missions are complex systems that depend upon the integration of technical and human subsystems. A prescient 2001 National Academy of Sciences report entitled "Safe Passage: Astronaut Care for Exploration Missions" provides a detailed Bioastronautics Critical Path Roadmap. The Roadmap in turn draws needed attention to the behavioral health of astronauts: a term that subsumes psychological, interpersonal and cultural adaptation to space.

Much to its credit, NASA appears to be following the Roadmap and recognizes the need to devote greater attention to behavioral health as these factors could significantly impact the success of long-duration missions. Future missions may introduce unique demands and impose new stresses on crews including extended operations on the lunar surface and, in the case of a voyage to Mars, unprecedented transit times. As a measure of its commitment, NASA recently sponsored a conference entitled "New Directions in Behavioral Health: A Workshop Integrating Research and Application" to forge stronger links between behavioral scientists and operational personnel. A conference report summarizing the workshop findings [PDF] that will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Aviation, Space & Environmental Medicine has been appended to my testimony. It provides a useful set of recommendations that NASA should heed as it reinvigorates a behavioral health research portfolio that necessarily balances the different perspectives and priorities of managers, engineers, scientists, support personnel, astronauts and family members.

I would like to reinforce a few of the recommendations from the report here. Now is the time to establish a strong and viable program of operationally relevant behavioral research. This research should be securely and adequately funded, pervasive and considered an integral component of space mission planning. A successful overall behavioral health program will require a broad perspective, multiple convergent research strategies, ingenious measures, and a variety of settings, including space itself. Psychosocial studies relevant to space are also highly relevant to situations and problems on Earth including the management of operations involving diverse participants, a trend that will only continue to grow. Finally, although much research has been geared toward countermeasures to the hostile environment of space, behavioral health also includes studying strengths, successes, positive experiences and character traits. Therefore, space is an excellent milieu to reveal composure, hope, decisiveness, cooperation and enthusiasm in an otherwise extreme and unforgiving environment.

Office of Aero-Space Technology

APA applauds NASA for its attention to human factors research but recognizes that it is still under funded relative to other disciplines. APA supports the Administration request of $188 million for the Aviation Safety and Security Program in FY05 to allow for critical research in Aviation Security as well as the successful transition to the next generation National Airspace System.

Two of NASA's long-term interests have been to reduce the aircraft accident rate and increase the aviation throughput, and more recent imperatives include enhanced aviation security. However, increases in air traffic volume, changes to security procedures and airport delays make these challenges especially daunting. The majority of aviation accidents continue to involve human errors not only in the cockpit, but also in operations, maintenance, dispatch, air traffic control, design and manufacturing. Further, human technology issues that lead to security breaches in controlled aviation environments raise a number of operational concerns. The importance of eliminating or at least mitigating the impact of such errors on aviation safety and security continue to be recognized by major reviews of the national airspace (e.g., VISION 2050: An Integrated National Transportation System; Securing the Future of U.S. Air Transportation: A System in Peril) as well as the FAA's Flight Plan. Although NASA's Aviation Safety and Security Program has and will continue to fund human factors research, the investment in this crucial topic is small in comparison to investment in other disciplines, and a fraction of what these multiple reviews have suggested is required to maintain and improve the safety and security of the nation's airspace.

A safe, secure and efficient airspace of the future will require much greater attention to the design of complex human integrated systems now. Although such systems rely on the combined activities of humans and machines, significant challenges exist for optimizing the roles of each at every level. At the systems level, creating effective teamwork involves many human operators and automated system elements. At the design level, creating effective tools involves developing human-centered operating procedures and system displays. To meet these challenges, NASA research must employ a broad, interdisciplinary approach that includes technology designers, users, and experts in human and organizational performance from the earliest stages of conceptual design through final implementation. Further, airspace management, as a geographically distributed activity must focus research on keeping humans at the center of coordinated decision-making and planning functions that are mediated by computers and automated systems across the United States and throughout the world.

Department of Veterans Affairs

Investments in investigator-initiated research projects at the VA have led to an explosion of knowledge that promises to advance our understanding of disease and unlock new strategies for prevention, treatment and cures. Psychological researchers play crucial roles in addressing the many challenges still confronting the veteran community, including mental health, deployment issues, substance abuse, aging-related concerns and rehabilitation. After many years of flat funding, the Administration budget proposes a $20 million cut to VA research in FY05. APA joins the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA), a coalition of over 50 organizations concerned about veterans' health, in recommending that Congress reverse this cut and provide $460 million for the VA Medical and Prosthetic Research Account in FY05.

Psychological Research in the VA

Through its Medical and Prosthetic Research Account, the VA funds intramural research that supports its clinical mission to care for our nation's veterans. VA psychologists play a dual role in providing care for veterans and conducting research in all areas of health, including high-priority areas particularly relevant to veterans such as mental health, substance abuse, aging-related disorders and physical and psychosocial rehabilitation. Psychological researchers also have specific expertise critical to helping the VA address its expanding concerns about deployment health and racial and ethnic disparities in health care among veterans. Because research has such a positive impact on the quality of care, APA strongly encourages the VA to ensure that neither research nor care suffers by developing mechanisms to designate time for clinicians to conduct research.


APA appreciates this opportunity to provide written testimony in support of psychological research sponsored by NSF, NASA and the VA, and strongly encourages the Subcommittee to reaffirm its commitment to basic behavioral science at all three agencies in FY 2005. We hope that Congress will reinvest in the longer-term basic research, which enables us to meet the full range of social, economic, health, and security challenges ahead.

Suggested Report Language for FY 2005 Appropriations (VA/HUD Subcommittee)

National Science Foundation

Priority Area in Human and Social Dynamics: The Committee recognizes the role of the social, behavioral and economic sciences in addressing complex problems facing our nation, including how people and organizations can better understand and manage profound or rapid societal changes. The Committee applauds NSF for investing in a multi-year priority area of research in Human and Social Dynamics (HSD), which will refine knowledge about decision-making, risk and uncertainty; examine adaptation and resistance to technological change; model complex networks such as communication grids and economic markets; further our understanding of the evolution of society and its interaction with climate, geography and environment; and investigate how human performance can be enhanced in conjunction with advances in biology, engineering, nanotechnology, robotics and information technology.

Department of Veterans Affairs (Medical and Prosthetic Research Account)

Psychological Research in the VA: The Committee recognizes the unique and important role played by psychologists in providing care for veterans and in advancing scientific research in areas particularly relevant to veterans, including mental health, physical and psychosocial rehabilitation, substance use and abuse, and aging-related conditions. The Committee also recognizes that psychological researchers have specific expertise critical to helping the VA address its expanding concerns about deployment health and racial and ethnic disparities in health care among veterans.

Psychological Support for Military Personnel and their Families: The Committee is concerned about reports of elevated incidences of suicide, domestic violence and significant mental health problems among deployed and returning military personnel. Therefore the Committee requests that the Department of Defense, in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs, formally evaluate the need for and provision of existing mental health and domestic violence prevention and intervention services for active duty personnel, particularly those deployed in combat arenas, and for military family members. The Department of Defense will provide a report to the Committee within six months.