Also in this Issue
Psychology Helps Weather The Storms
After APA Fellow Dr. Baruch Fischhoff took the time to express his concern about risk communication issues associated with the Katrina disaster on the Op-Ed pages of the Washington Post earlier this month, Science Policy staff worked with APA's visiting senior scientist, Dr. Clare Porac, to conduct outreach to other APA scientists who might also do research relevant to disasters. The request to collect such information was actually initiated by Dr. Mark Weiss, Assistant Director for Social, Behavioral and Educational Sciences in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Dr. Porac's letter was disseminated to the leadership of all APA Divisions and has generated a few interesting and varied responses. However, this is an on-going project and APA would welcome additional examples of how psychological science can inform policy on issues pertaining to the prediction, prevention, preparation and mitigation of the effects of, and recovery from, disasters like hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Please consider the relevance of your own research or the research of your colleagues and contact Dr. Clare Porac by email or at 202-336-5949 for more information. Many thanks to those who have already contributed to this important project.
Science Policy Office Hits the Road
In October, Science Policy staff Karen Studwell attended the Society of Experimental Social Psychology meeting in San Diego to discuss issues impacting psychological research and to encourage psychological scientists to get involved in advocacy. To stay on top of federal policy issues like funding for research, priority-setting at federal agencies, and protecting peer review or other Congressional issues, we encourage all psychological scientists to continue to read SPIN and the Psychological Science Agenda.
Commissioner of Special Education Research Addresses Research Community
On October 14, the Commissioner of the Center for Special Education Research, Ed Kame’enui, PhD, met with representatives of scientific and special education organizations to discuss the mission of the NCSER and to share the center's research priorities. The NCSER, which was established in the 2004 legislation reauthorizing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), assumes the research responsibilities that were previously within the portfolio of the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The new NCSER is one of two education research centers within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). During the meeting, Dr. Kame’enui discussed the importance of putting science first in special education research, and added that, “good science is good, but not enough. Results must lead to the engineering of high quality performance and delivery systems.” Operating on a budget of approximately $83 million, the NCSER has a significant list of research priorities specifically focused on special education research, including: reading and writing, math and science, teacher quality, early intervention and assessment for young children with disabilities, language and vocabulary development, assessment for accountability, individualized education programs research, serious behavior disorders, and secondary and post-secondary outcomes.
Friends of NIDA Coalition Presents Educational Briefing on HIV and Drug Use
Behaviors associated with drug use have been shown to be among some of the most prominent and robust predictors of HIV transmission in the United States. In fact, injection drug use has directly and indirectly accounted for more than one-third (36 percent) of AIDS cases in the United States. Drug use also affects judgment about sexual risks and thereby increases the likelihood of transmitting or acquiring HIV through unprotected sex. But evidence suggests that drug abuse treatment can help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially when combined with prevention and community-based outreach programs for at-risk individuals. Because these efforts can reduce or eliminate drug use and drug-related HIV risk behaviors, the Friends of NIDA hosted an educational briefing on Capitol Hill on October 25 to raise awareness about the relationship between drug use and HIV infection.
The briefing, entitled "Drug Use and HIV/AIDS: Breaking the Cycle of Infection", was organized by APA Science Policy staffers Sara Robinson and Geoff Mumford. It was the third in a series this year designed to elevate NIDA's profile with policy-makers. As with the other events, APA coordinated with the Chairs of the Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus to find space and drum up support for the briefing, which was co-sponsored by 18 other organizations. NIDA Director Nora Volkow, MD, provided a spirited overview of NIDA's HIV/AIDS research portfolio, noting, among other issues, the alarming change in patterns of transmission disproportionately affecting African American women. Psychologist Robert Booth, PhD, a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, described his experiences as an HIV prevention researcher leading the community-based SAFE program in Denver. Finally, Ms. Patricia Nalls, Founder and Executive Director of a DC-based nonprofit organization, The Women's Collective, provided her personal perspective as an HIV-positive woman helping other women deal with HIV-related issues.
The briefing drew a standing room only crowd of over 100 guests, and the Friends of NIDA once again extend their deep appreciation to Congressman Jim Ramstad and his staff for their assistance in obtaining a room for the event.
During the debate on the Senate legislation that funds the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) offered an amendment that seeks to ensure that candidates for scientific advisory committees are not vetted for either their voting history or political beliefs, but for their scientific expertise. Durbin shared the story of psychologist William Miller from the University of New Mexico who, as originally reported by Mother Jones, was denied an appointment to the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse. “We rely on scientists and medical experts serving the National Institutes of Health to make wise decisions based on real science, not politics, to ensure that our investments in medical research will improve the health of Americans for generations to come” said Durbin, speaking on behalf of his amendment. A similar amendment regarding scientific appointments was offered by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and included in the House version of the bill. As the differences between the House and Senate bill are ironed out in a conference committee, it remains to be seen whether either amendment will be included in the final legislation.
Health and Education Funding Bill Passed by U.S. Senate
The new fiscal year (FY 06) began October 1, 2005, but the final funding for several key research funding agencies is still in doubt as SPIN goes to press. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), among other research funders, is operating under a temporary funding mechanism until final legislation is passed.
That is why it is good news that, on October 27, the Senate passed its $604 billion version of the Fiscal 2006 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill. The Senate bill would provide more funding for NIH, CDC and the Department of Education than the bill passed by the House of Representatives last summer.
The Senate bill includes $141.7 billion in discretionary funding. The House version, totaling $602 billion, would provide $142.5 billion in discretionary spending, or $164 million (0.1 percent) less than for FY 2005. The remaining funds go toward entitlements, e.g. Medicare and Medicaid. Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA), made room for extra discretionary spending in the Senate bill by shifting more than $3 billion in mandatory Supplemental Security Income payments by a few days from FY 2006 into FY 2007. Without that shift, the discretionary total in the Senate bill would have been $145.7 billion.
The Senate bill would increase spending for the NIH by more than $1 billion, or 3.7 percent, to a total of $29.42 billion. The House version provided an NIH increase of only 0.5 percent.
No amendment was offered in the Senate debate to cut funding for any particular research grants, as was approved in the House. The House and Senate conferees will negotiate that provision, and the Neugebauer amendment is not expected to survive in the final version of the bill. APA's Karen Studwell and the coalition she co-chairs, the Coalition to Protect Research, has worked tirelessly against the Neugebauer amendment.
Among the amendments added to the Senate bill during debate was a provision authored by U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) that would direct officials at agencies financed by the bill not to apply political litmus tests to candidates for appointment to a federal scientific advisory committee. In particular, candidates may not be asked about their political affiliation, voting history, or "the position that the candidate holds with respect to political issues not directly related to and necessary for the work of the committee involved." The Durbin amendment passed by voice vote.
The Senate also approved an amendment to provide nearly $8 billion in emergency funding to combat the avian flu.
Thanks to all the members of the Public Policy Action Network who called their Senators to urge that the Senate act independently on its health funding bill. Your calls and those of other scientists may have made the difference! Because the Senate bill has now been approved, a more substantive funding increase for NIH will be under consideration. There is still no guarantee that the House will go along with the accounting measures used in the Senate to achieve the larger recommended increase for NIH, but the odds have improved with the Senate vote.
Stay tuned to SPIN to see how the story ends and what sort of funding increase NIH and the other research funding agencies ultimately receive.
APA Takes Stand on Detainee Issue
The Science Directorate and Public Policy Office have taken the lead in coordinating APA's response to recent legislative initiatives in Congress regarding U.S. detainees and prisoners of war. APA, along with other mental health and human rights organizations, supports Senator John McCain's amendment to the Fiscal Year 2006 appropriations bill (which funds the Department of Defense - DoD) which would effectively prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of U.S. detainees and call for uniform standards for interrogations within DoD. The Senate-passed version of the bill includes Sen. McCain's amendment, but there is no similar language in the companion bill passed by the House. This particular amendment is drawing a lot of attention during the conference process, during which the House and Senate negotiate a final version of the bill, and the President has threatened to veto the funding bill if it includes the McCain amendment.
Our support for this important amendment is based on our fundamental mission to protect and promote human welfare and recognition of the many psychologists working on behalf of our national security interests. The APA ethics code requires psychologists to respect the dignity and worth of all individuals and to strive for the preservation and protection of fundamental human rights. In addition, a 1986 Council resolution supports the U.N. Declaration and Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as the U.N. Principles of Medical Ethics. In August of 2005, the Council reaffirmed this resolution through its endorsement of the report of our APA Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security. APA President Ronald Levant, EdD had an opportunity to further discuss these issues during a recent DoD trip to U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay that included leaders from the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association.
In addition to formally requesting congressional leadership support for the McCain amendment in the conference negotiations, APA also urges its members to call their congressional delegation in Washington to ask for support of the amendment.