Also in this Issue
Missing Issue of SPIN Found
Dedicated readers of SPIN may have noticed something missing from their in-boxes last month…the April Issue. I'll dispense with the dog-ate-my-book approach and confess that we were just too busy last month to produce SPIN. And so this first, and hopefully last, double-issue. I apologize for any distress caused by a month's absence of science policy insider news. -Geoff
Congress Acts on APA's Call to Increase Support for VA Research
Just this week, the new Military Quality of Life and VA Appropriations Subcommittee in the House of Representatives drafted legislation that would double support for mental health research within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for Fiscal Year 2006. This directly follows APA's testimony before the Subcommittee, in which Executive Director for Science Steven Breckler urged lawmakers to increase funding for the VA's Medical and Prosthetic Research Account, and the psychological research program in particular. The VA funds intramural research in support of its clinical mission to care for veterans, and VA psychological scientists conduct research in high-priority areas such as mental health, substance abuse, aging-related disorders, and physical and psychosocial rehabilitation. The proposed increase in VA research dollars comes after many years of flat funding and cuts in the Administration's budget request for the account in Fiscal Years 2005 and 2006. The draft funding legislation now will go before the whole House for a vote, and eventually will be "conferenced" with the Senate's funding bill before becoming law.
APA Urges Congress to Increase Spending for Research, Services
In testimony submitted to the House and Senate Appropriation Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, APA called for Congress to continue the progress begun with the doubling of NIH’s budget several years ago, by increasing the NIH budget by six percent instead of the 0.5 percent requested by the Administration. APA also suggested that the National Institute of Mental Health balance its portfolio of basic behavioral research and applied, disease-related research in order to continue feeding the next generation of behavioral treatments and other interventions. Furthermore, APA urged the Appropriations Committees to continue directing the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to develop a program in basic behavioral sciences research, or training, or both. The statement read, “Much basic research is supported at NIH by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, yet NIGMS funds very little basic behavioral research. APA asks that the committee continue to encourage or direct NIGMS, as it has for the past five years, to fill some of the gaps that now appear in NIH support of basic behavioral research and research training.”
APA’s statement called for an additional $15 million for Child Abuse Prevention programs in the Department of Health and Human Services, development of additional research-based programs to prevent bullying, and additional funding for the Graduate Psychology Education program.
Friends of NIDA States Its Case to Appropriations Committees
On April 1, the Friends of NIDA coalition submitted written testimony for the record in support of funding for the National Institute on Drug Abuse to the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The testimony, advocating for a 6% increase in NIDA's FY06 funding level, summarized a variety of programmatic initiatives and described both NIDA success stories as well as challenges and opportunities. The House version of the testimony, identical in content, was submitted April 15.
APA Provides Colorful Input to FDA
Following a request for comments from the Food and Drug Administration on the use of color in pharmaceutical labeling, APA collaborated with scientists from the leadership of Division 21 (Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology) and psychologists from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society to compile a statement for the record, submitted on April 7.
While there is empirical evidence suggesting that the use of color can enhance or degrade the quality of a communication depending on context, there appears to be a general lack of data on the use of color in pharmaceutical labeling. Therefore, we hope that a call for more research will shed light on this important public health/safety issue.
APA Members Participate in Buprenorphine Summit
On April 11-12, Geoff Mumford, APA's Director of Science Policy (and one-time behavioral pharmacologist), was invited to participate on an Expert Panel in a summit to discuss progress on the use of buprenorphine in the treatment of opiate dependence.
The Summit, a joint effort by SAMHSA and NIDA, brought together government scientists, academicians, industry leaders and treatment providers to discuss both positive and negative experiences in the implementation of a national treatment strategy. APA member Leslie Amass, PhD, served as scientific Co-Chair for the summit, and several other APA members presented at the conference and/or participated in breakout work groups including: Drs. Thomas Freese, Hendree Jones, Charles "Bob" Schuster, and Cheryl Stanton. APA members participating as part of NIDA staff included Drs. Jane Acri and Cece McNamara.
Following a series of status reports from various invited speakers and panels on day 1 of the Summit, six work groups met on day 2 to discuss priorities for, and barriers to, advancing access to buprenorphine by examining: care settings and model programs; integrated support systems for special populations; emerging clinical issues; training and education; financing and policy challenges; and surveillance and trend data. The Expert Panel will be charged with synthesizing the output from the workgroups as a document to guide future buprenorphine treatment initiatives.
The Summit generated consensus about at least one treatment barrier, a 30 patient limit on group practices which has negative repercussions for, among others, university medical centers where many psychologists are conducting buprenorphine research. The limit was added to the law that makes it possible for physicians to administer buprenorphine from office-based settings in order to prevent physicians from running prescription mills, but it has had unintended consequences.
A SAMHSA official at the meeting suggested that a formal rule-making might be in the works to withdraw the cap but was not at liberty to discuss a timeline. Following the meeting, good news emerged from the House of Representatives, where legislation to repeal the cap had stalled in the last congress but appears to be moving forward again. APA was among several of the organizations endorsing a Dear Colleague letter meant to generate support for the bills passage.
Friends of NIDA Urge Membership in Tobacco Caucus
In an attempt raise awareness about the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., and to help remind Members of Congress about the breadth of NIDA's research portfolio, the Friends of NIDA sent a letter to all Members of the House of Representatives on April 12 urging them to join the Congressional Caucus on Tobacco and Health.
Science Policy Staff Flee to Canada
The American Educational Research Association held its annual meeting April 11-14 in Montreal, Canada. Science Policy staffer Karen Studwell participated in a session focused on the intersection of research and policy and discussed ways that researchers could ensure that their research was able to inform policy decisions. The session also included presentations by psychologists Pat Alexander, Jim Greeno, Barbara McCombs and APA's Rena Subotnik. Most of the participants were able to cite those research areas that are more likely to be supported by federal agencies, such as academic achievement and teacher quality, but there are also other opportunities that can be found by contacting program staff at the funding agencies. One way to ensure that research findings are utilized by policymakers is to produce materials for the audience of policymakers and their staff who need concise recommendations that can be understood without having to read full journal articles.
For more information on the research funding available throughout the various agencies that support education research, please see:
APA Names Summer Research Fellows in DoD Counterintelligence
APA's Science Directorate and Public Policy Office are pleased to announce the selection of Sujeeta Bhatt, PhD (Georgetown University Medical Center) and Kathleen Pierce, MA (The Ohio State University) as Summer Research Fellows in Department of Defense (DoD) Counterintelligence. Bhatt and Pierce will spend eight weeks this summer working in the Counterintelligence Field Activity Office (CIFA) of DoD, headquartered in Washington, D.C. CIFA serves as the coordinating office for DoD's counterintelligence activities, and the APA Fellows will work with psychologists heading up the CIFA Behavioral Sciences Directorate on research issues related to detection of deception and the impacts of competing identities.
APA Cosponsors Drug Abuse Liability Conference
On April 19-20, APA cosponsored a conference entitled "Impact of Drug Formulation on Abuse Liability, Safety, and Regulatory Decisions" to examine a range of issues under exploration by psychopharmacologists trying to limit the abuse liability of medications by adjusting the formulation in which they are delivered. This conference served as a follow-on to a conference held in October 2002 entitled "Abuse Liability Assessment of CNS Drugs", which set forth a set of research priorities and addressed methodological issues necessary to enhance the sensitivity and predictive validity of abuse liability assessments. The proceedings of the first conference were detailed in a Supplement to Drug and Alcohol Dependence (Volume 70, Issue 3 Supplement, 2003). Likewise, a series of commissioned papers will be published from this conference in a future issue of DAD.
As with the previous conference, APA scientists were out in force, including Drs. Robert Balster, Warren Bickel, Harriet deWit, Roland Griffiths, Dorothy Hatsukami, Jack Henningfield, Chris-Ellyn Johanson, and Chis Sannerud. APA Fellow and former NIDA Director, Charles "Bob" Schuster, served as co-chair for the conference.
View speaker presentations from the conference (enter username: Drug Formulation and password: CPDD)
Psychologists Talk up Basic Research at Latest Science Advocacy Workshop
Thirteen early-career psychologists came to Washington April 30 through May 2, 2005, to talk with congressional staff about why it's so important for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support basic behavioral research. The workshop participants are themselves basic researchers who are all less than ten years past their doctoral degrees.
NHTSA Alerted to Human Factors Research on Driver Distraction
In an effort to increase awareness of driver distraction research, Science Policy staff coordinated a joint letter sent to Dr. Jeffrey Runge, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on May 3 to alert him to a body of research reported in the winter issue of Human Factors (the journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society).
The letter puts four like-minded organizations on record as to the importance of driver distraction research, noting that it is a serious problem compounded by widespread misunderstanding of the central cognitive mechanisms involved. Furthermore, a large and growing body of scientific knowledge already exists that could and should be informing policy, but isn't. And lastly, unanswered questions require additional investment in related research, and research should be given a higher priority than it currently receives.
Science Policy staff are using the letter as an entre to recommend that congressional report language be included with the FY 2006 Transportation Appropriations bill suggesting that NHTSA collaborate with the National Academies to study the issue further. On May 12, Geoff Mumford, Director of Science Policy, accompanied Deborah Boehm-Davis, President of the Division of Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology, to meet with Senate Appropriations staff and discuss the research. Dr. Boehm-Davis, who has been a tireless advocate of human factors research, eloquently summarized much of the research in the special section of Human Factors for which she had served as a primary reviewer.