Also in this Issue
An Orange Alert for Social Science in the House
In the July issue of SPIN, we discussed efforts to educate Senate staff about the important role social and behavioral sciences have played, and will continue to play, in homeland security and counter terrorism. The reason? Senator Akaka (D-HI) introduced a bill excluding social sciences from eligibility for a fellowship program outlined in the Homeland Security Federal Workforce Act (S.589). Despite our efforts and much to our chagrin, the bill passed the Senate November 5 and was subsequently referred to two House Committees (Committee on Government Reform and Committee on Education and the Workforce) for further consideration. This turn of events was troubling on two fronts: 1) because we thought we had successfully corrected the misperceptions of senate staff, and 2) because there was little reason to believe the bill would actually move to the floor of the Senate for a vote. With a renewed appreciation for how fickle the legislative process can be, we are redoubling our efforts to amend this language in the House. The report (S. 108-119) that accompanied S.589 did not provide any rationale for the exclusion, and Senate staff gave us only a vague sense as to why it had been incorporated - that they thought there were already too many social scientists working in government.
Determined not to let such language stand in the House version of the bill, science policy staff have been working with both Committees to see that the language is revised. Our efforts on the Hill will continue to augment a stance spelled out by APA CEO Norman Anderson in his January 26 letter to all 84 Members across both Committees (see below link to letter). Given that the bill was initiated by Senate democrats and that the November elections will markedly compress the legislative calendar, it seems unlikely that this bill will move forward in the House. But given our recent experience with S. 589 in the Senate, it is clear that we cannot afford to be complacent.
Board of Directors Task Force on Sexual Orientation and Military Service Convened
APA Board of Directors member Barry Anton chaired a January weekend meeting of the newly-appointed Task Force on Sexual Orientation and Military Service, staffed by Science PPO's Heather Kelly and the Public Interest Directorate's Clinton Anderson. Three members from both Division 19 (Military Psychology) and Division 44 (Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Issues), as well as the current president of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS), were appointed to the Task Force by Robert Sternberg during his tenure as APA President last year. The charge given the Task Force was to "consider issues of common concern, including the APA ban on Department of Defense advertising in APA publications." Through a truly collaborative effort over the course of the weekend, Task Force members developed a report for the Board of Directors with implications for research, practice, publication and advocacy efforts. We will report on the progress of these items as they move through APA's official governance system.
NIH Director Responds to Congressional Inquiries into Research
NIH Director Elias Zerhouni issued a strong response in a January 26 letter to Members of Congress who had questioned whether certain sexual behavior grants funded by NIH were appropriate to the its mission. The response includes a two-page letter and a summary of the findings from an NIH review of the human sexuality portfolio. Zerhouni stated that he "fully supports NIH's continued investment in research on human sexuality." The enclosed summary of institute directors' findings further explains the importance of funding research on sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, sexual dysfunction and high-risk sexual behaviors. The summary further explains the peer review process and states that all the grants associated with human sexuality underwent the standard peer review process and Institutional Review Board review process. Elements of the human sexuality portfolio will be the focus of a Capitol Hill briefing on March 5, entitled: "Lost in Translation: Public Health Implications of Sexual Health Research." The briefing is sponsored by the Decade of Behavior and the Coalition to Protect Research.
NICHD Council Updated on the National Children’s Study
On January 29, Peter Scheidt, Program Director of the National Children's Study, briefed the National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council (NACHHD) on the current status and activities of the NCS. Mandated by the Children's Health Act of 2000, the study is being led by a consortium of federal agencies, including NICHD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The National Children's Study will examine the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of more than 100,000 children across the United States, following them from before birth until age 21. Dr. Scheidt spoke about the importance of defining "environment" broadly to include social, behavioral, and cultural influences. In keeping with this emphasis on psychosocial factors, Sarah Knox, a behavioral scientist, has recently joined the NCS as a Health Scientist Administrator in the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research. Dr. Knox, who holds a PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Stockholm, Sweden, is responsible for protocol development and oversight of the developmental, behavioral, and social components of the NCS. Dr. Scheidt also updated the Council on ongoing pilot studies, protocol planning, and debate over the type of sample to be used. In addition, the National Human Genome Research Institute has proposed a significant expansion of the NCS to include a large, adult longitudinal cohort to study relationships between genes, environment, and chronic disease. While scientific consultation has concluded that the incorporation of an adult cohort, comprised of parents and all available grandparents, would provide a number of benefits, more planning and details are needed. Dr. Scheidt said that until the funding and schedule for the NCS are confirmed, NCS will continue with its current plans. If the NCS receives the necessary funding of $45 million in fiscal year 2005, the study will be on track to begin in mid-2006.
New NIMH Branch to Focus on Aging and Mental Health
On February 2, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) announced that it was creating two new branches within the Division of Services and Intervention Research. The new Aging Treatment and Preventative Interventions Research Branch will be led by Barry Lebowitz, who will also head the NIMH-wide Aging Consortium. Acting Director Matthew Rudorfer will lead the new Adult Treatment and Preventative Interventions Branch until a permanent director is found. George Neiderhe will also be joining the new aging branch. The creation of a new aging branch was just one recommendation from the NIMH Council Report, Mental Health for a Lifetime: Research for the Mental Health Needs of Older Americans. APA member Steven Zarit, of Penn State University, spoke at the September 2003 Council meeting in support of a new aging branch at NIMH, increased support for training and for a dedicated program staff with expertise in late life mental disorders.
New Opportunities for Research Training From the Institute of Education Sciences
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) recently announced a new opportunity for research training through the Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training (PIRT) Programs in the Education Sciences. The Institute's objectives in creating the PIRT programs are: (1) to support the development of innovative interdisciplinary training programs for doctoral students interested in conducting applied education research; and (2) to establish a network of training programs that collectively produce a cadre of education researchers willing and able to conduct a new generation of methodologically rigorous and educationally relevant scientific research that will provide solutions to pressing problems and challenges facing American education.
Meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council
The National Advisory Mental Health Council met on Friday, February 6, and welcomed two new Council psychologist members: Peter Salovey of Yale University, and Sergio Aguilar-Gaxlio of California State University, Fresno. Top on the list of issues for NIMH in the coming year is the impact of dwindling funding increases projected for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NIMH. The final FY04 budget resulted in a 3.1% increase for NIMH, and the Administration proposed a mere 2.7% increase for NIH in FY05. Faced with tightening budgets, NIMH Director Tom Insel anticipates that the NIMH payline will likely drop from 20% to 18% in the near future. APA and the broader scientific community are advocating for a ten percent increase for NIH in FY05.
NIMH Review of Basic Research Portfolio Underway
As we reported in the October issue of SPIN, the NIMH Council formed a workgroup to review the basic science portfolio at the institute. The NAMHC workgroup has been divided into two subgroups. One subgroup is reviewing the behavioral neuroscience, basic behavioral, and basic cognitive portfolio, while the other is reviewing the basic molecular and cellular portfolio .At this point, the subgroups are still holding their first meetings and ironing out the processes they will use to analyze the balance of basic research in the NIMH's portfolio. In conducting the review, the subgroups have been asked to consider the relevance of the research to mental disorders and to recommend priority areas for research funding. Alan Leshner, CEO of the Association for the Advancement of Science, was selected to chair the Workgroup, "Setting Priorities for the Basic Sciences of Mental Health."
On Friday, February 6, he reported back to Council on the progress of the two sub-groups.. Leshner indicated that the working group would not be going through the portfolio grant by grant, but rather discussing whether specific domains of research are relevant to the NIMH mission. They are currently reviewing the portfolio, looking for areas that are redundant or fail to meet the following three criteria: 1) relevance to the primary focus of NIMH to reduce the burden of mental illness; 2) offer current opportunities for scientific payoff; and 3) feature innovative research. The full workgroup is expected to meet in March and issue recommendations by May 2004.
NSF Director Rita Colwell Announces Departure
National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Rita Colwell announced that she will step down from her position on February 21, ending months of speculation in the science community about whether she planned to leave the agency prior to the expiration of her six-year contract this summer. According to an NSF statement, Dr. Colwell will become Chairman of Canon U.S. Life Sciences, Inc., "a newly created, Washington-based subsidiary of Canon U.S.A., Inc. whose goal is to identify and develop life-science solutions with potential applications in diagnostics and medical instrumentation." Dr. Colwell, a microbiologist and internationally recognized expert on cholera and other infectious diseases, will also serve as Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and on the faculty of The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she will help develop a new international center for the study of infectious diseases, water, and health in conjunction with scientific colleagues from Sweden, Norway, Japan, and Bangladesh." Taking the reins of NSF on an interim basis will be Arden Bement, a metallurgical engineer by training and current Director of the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology.