Also in this Issue
Friends of NICHD Braces For Another Tight Budget Year
On February 19th, the Friends of NICHD Coalition met with NICHD Director Duane Alexander to discuss the President's proposed FY05 budget and the likely impact it would have on NICHD's portfolio of research. New initiatives will be restrained by the slow budget growth, as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) unfortunately received only a 2.7% increase in FY04 and the President's proposed budget for FY05 is only a 3% increase. Despite those challenges, NICHD is continuing to strengthen its learning research portfolio by focusing on math and science cognition as well as methods for teaching those with math disabilities. NICHD is also working with the Department of Education on identifying the needs for assessments in cognitive development, language, and behavior for children ages two through five. NICHD is also continuing to lead the planning for the National Children's Study (NCS). Recruitment is now slated to begin in 2006, though it will require at least an additional $100 million to begin enrolling participants. The Friends of NICHD will be visiting congressional staff this spring to request additional funding over the President's request for NIH overall and NICHD.
Science and PPO Staff Head to Ft. Belvoir with Divisions 19 and 21
On March 5th, the Science Directorate's Dianne Maranto and Heather Kelly met with researchers at the annual Division 19 (Military Psychology)/Division 21 (Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology)/Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Joint Mid-Winter Meeting at Ft. Belvoir. During an interactive discussion hour on research funding and science policy, Maranto and Kelly updated scientists on research funding opportunities and likely effects of this year's political climate on appropriations for science mission agencies (particularly the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Science Foundation). The conference was also a wonderful opportunity for APA staff to hear about cutting edge research that is ideal for dissemination on Capitol Hill and in the federal agencies.
PPO Does a Round of Hill Visits to Advocate for NSF Budget Increase
Last month, Science Policy staffer Heather Kelly joined a multidisciplinary group of science advocates (all members of the Coalition for National Science Funding) for "Hill visits" to three Republican offices on the Senate side. The group met with staffers for Sens. Conrad Burns (R-MT), John Ensign (R-NV) and Judd Gregg (R-NH), all of whom sit on the influential Senate Budget Committee. We emphasized that even in an extremely tight budget year in FY 2005, a strong investment in basic research at the National Science Foundation (including social and behavioral research) is critical to the nation's short- and long-term success. As SPIN goes to press, Congress continues to wrestle with a budget resolution, and PPO will stay involved in the process while turning our primary focus to influencing outcomes of the appropriations process in other legislative committees.
APA Fellows Take to the Hill to Discuss Homeland Security
On February 27th, Science Policy Director Geoff Mumford coordinated meetings between two of the APA Fellows serving on Department of Homeland Security Advisory Committees and Senior House and Senate Committee staff charged with writing the science and technology section of the bill that will reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security. Although Drs. Deborah Boehm-Davis and Roxane Cohen Silver represent very different research domains, it was extremely helpful to have both of them present to discuss the wide-range of psychological science issues coming before the advisory bodies to which they have been appointed.
It was clear that the Subcommitee staff (Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Science and Research and Development of the Select Committee on Homeland Security in the House and the Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in the Senate) were grateful for their input on issues that ranged from optimizing the human performance of security teams and first responders to expanding pools of research funding in the immediate aftermath of terrorist events. SPIN readers may know that DHS has just celebrated its one-year anniversary and is undergoing much scrutiny as congress tries to determine how well it's performing. There is some concern about how far congress will get with the reauthorization this session given the short election-year calendar and the fact that so many Committees and Subcommittees are vying for jurisdiction over Homeland Security issues.
In addition to visiting with Committee staff, Dr. Silver took advantage of the opportunity to meet with the personal staff of her district Representative, Christopher Cox, who Chairs the Select Committee on Homeland Security. The staffer, a political scientist by training, clearly appreciated many of the social science issues Dr. Silver raised. She noted that Rep. Cox is especially interested in understanding what effect raising the alert level has on the nation's citizens, as that will likely come up as he pursues authorization hearings. During Dr. Silver's meeting, Dr. Boehm-Davis visited with staff of her district Representative, Tom Davis, who Chairs the House Government Reform Committee. That's one of two Committees to which S.589 (a Senate bill that excludes social sciences from eligibility in a proposed National Security Fellowship Program) has been referred in the House. Dr. Boehm-Davis was able to provide myriad examples of the sorts of behavioral and social scientists (including her own students) that the bill would exclude from the federal workforce and clearly impressed the staff with the range of research that social scientists conduct. The staff assured Dr. Boehm-Davis that they would keep her apprised of the progress of the bill and were amenable to changing the exclusionary language. All in all, it was a very productive morning. We are extremely grateful to both Drs. Boehm-Davis and Silver for representing psychology so ably in their respective DHS committee assignments as well as on Capitol Hill.
Baruch Fischoff Selected to Advise on Homeland Security Science and Technology Committee
Geoff Mumford, Director of Science Policy, attended the inaugural meeting of the Homeland Security Science and Technology Advisory Committee (HSSTAC) on February 26. Shrouded in great secrecy and held in a remote location, the 3 hour open session drew about 2 dozen members of the public to find out who had been appointed to the 20 member advisory committee.
We were extremely pleased to see Baruch Fischhoff, the only behavioral scientist, had been appointed to the HSSTAC. Loyal SPIN readers may recall that we initiated meetings between Baruch and the Advisory Committee staff almost two years ago, after Dr. Fischhoff's participation in our first counter-terrorism conference at the FBI Academy. Following an introduction to Frank Ciluffo, fellow conference attendee and then Special Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, (who was then leading the effort to develop the Homeland Security Advisory Council when homeland security was still in "Office" status), we coordinated meetings with Baruch and Frank at the Homeland Security Office.
Dr. Fischoff continued serving as a willing APA spokesperson for homeland security science and technology by meeting with the majority staff of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and the majority staff of the House Science Committee, coauthoring APA's official comments on the Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS), and presenting at our Capitol Hill briefing on Disaster Preparedness.
The HSSTAC was chartered in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L.107-296, see link below for charter language) and will advise the Director of the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate.
The open session allowed members to provide brief introductions and highlight issues they thought would be important for HSSTAC to address. Dr. Fischhoff was invited to go first and identified 3 main issue areas: 1) Risk communications to help the public understand what they are up against; 2) development of behaviorally realistic plans in preparation for, or in the event of, a terrorist attack; and 3) how human judgment is and should be brought to bear on risk data analysis.
During the remainder of the open session, Chuck McQueary outlined the mission and goals of HSSTAC, which were pretty much identical to his testimony before the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Science, and Research & Development of the Select Committee on Homeland Security the day before (see link below for testimony).
The work of the Advisory Committee will be divided across 4 subcommittees that were not discussed in the public session, but Dr. Fischhoff said later he'd been assigned to one whose paraphrased function is public relations. During Q&A, Baruch took the opportunity to discuss one of his pet concerns (related in part to the work he does for the Environmental Protection Agency), which is developing clean-up standards that would help reassure the public about the risks associated with moving back into an area contaminated by a radiological device (i.e., a dirty bomb), a troubling scenario that was depicted last year in a NOVA special (see link below).
When I asked him to comment on his appointment and the role of psychology as it applies to the S&T mission of DHS, Dr. Fischhoff said:
"I see three roles for psychological research in creating the science and technology needed to protect homeland security. One is ensuring that plans and models make behaviorally realistic assumptions -- for example, about how people will respond in crisis situations or how well they will be able to use safety equipment. A second role is improving the role of human judgment in the decision-making process, recognizing that experts are people, too. We need to understand their limits, both to help them to do a better job and to know how much faith to put in their work. The third role is creating clearer communication between officials and citizens. Citizens need, and want, to understand the risks that they face and the tradeoffs that policies make between safety, cost, privacy, and other outcomes. Officials need to know what citizens want from them and are willing to contribute to the cause. Although my own field, judgment and decision making, is central to these issues, I think that many areas in psychology have a great deal to contribute. I hope to be able to represent them, as well as the social and behavioral sciences more generally."