Also in this Issue
New Round of Funding Opportunities Posted at NSF
The outside Advisory Committee providing guidance to the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) met in Washington earlier this month in a session attended by Science Policy staff. SBE Associate Director David Lightfoot provided an update on SBE activities and priorities, which include strengthening multi-disciplinary, cross-agency and international partnerships. The Committee was pleased at the response to SBE's Human and Social Dynamics (HSD) competition, which has just posted its solicitation for the FY 2006/2007 round of grants. Exploratory grant proposals for HSD are due February 14, 2006, and proposals for full grants are due February 21. NSF staff emphasize that they are looking to increase the gender, ethnic/racial, and institutional diversity of HSD grantees. A new solicitation also is posted on the SBE website for the Developmental and Learning Sciences program, which "supports studies that increase our understanding of cognitive, linguistic, social, cultural, and biological processes related to children's and adolescents' development and learning." Proposals are due February 17 and July 15, 2006.
Friends of NICHD Get Briefing on the NIH Peer Review System
With increased scrutiny on how the National Institutes of Health makes its funding decisions and a possible proposed NIH reorganization by Congress, advocates of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development received a briefing from NIH staff on precisely how the two-tiered peer review system works at NIH. FNICHD members engaged in a mock review and learned many of the ins and outs of reviewing research proposals. While the NIH peer review process is considered the gold standard in determining how biomedical and behavioral research is funded, there are some changes that may impact on some of the process. This year, NIH is slowly phasing in its electronic grant submission process by grant mechanism, beginning with the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants in November 2005. The remaining mechanisms will be moving to electronic submission by 2007. Additional changes may occur as consumer advocates are permitted to participate in some peer review panels to represent human subject perspectives as well as help NIH institutes review public education materials.
APA Psychologist Roxane Silver Testifies on Disaster Response Research
On November 10, Dr. Roxane Cohen Silver joined a distinguished panel of social and behavioral scientists to present her testimony as an expert witness at a congressional hearing of the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Research. Specifically focused on "The Role of Social Science Research in Disaster Preparedness and Response", Chairman Inglis (R-South Carolina) convened the hearing to address such questions as: "How do individuals respond to traumatic experiences, such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters? How can insights into fundamental questions of cooperation, social order and resilience improve preparation for and response to new threats and disasters?"
Dr. Silver, a Professor in the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, Irvine, presented testimony about her research on how individuals adjust to stressful life experiences. Highlighting findings from her NSF-funded longitudinal study of emotional, cognitive, and social responses to the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Silver explained that our assumptions and expectations about the coping process stand in sharp contrast to the research data. As one example of what she calls the "myths" of coping with trauma, Dr. Silver explained that "psychological responses are mistakenly assumed to be limited to those directly exposed to the trauma, and the degree of emotional response is mistakenly assumed to be proportional to the degree of exposure, amount of loss, or proximity to the trauma." Furthermore, individuals are often expected to adjust within a prescribed timetable, yet few individuals experience an orderly sequence of "stages" of emotional response, and this narrow notion of recovery fails to account for the lifelong nature of the effects of such events. In closing, Dr. Silver stressed the critical need for methodologically sophisticated, externally valid research on coping as we reevaluate what it means to psychologically adjust to trauma.
NIMH Director Shares Research Findings in Congressional Briefing
On Thursday, November 17, the National Foundation for Mental Health, of which APA is a founding organization, held its first Congressional Briefing featuring NIMH Director Tom Insel and sponsored in partnership with the Congressional Mental Health Caucus. The Caucus co-chairs, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Grace Napolitano (D-CA), took the opportunity to express their support for mental health issues and to encourage advocates to increase their efforts to educate Congress about the need for both mental health research and services for those with mental disorders. Dr. Insel followed their remarks with a more specific discussion of the results of NIMH's Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) Study, whose initial results comparing antipsychotic medications were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in September. In the first few months of the eighteen month-long trial, investigators unexpectedly found that nearly 75 percent of participants discontinued their initial medication, regardless of which medication they tried first. The findings could have broader implications for the treatment of those suffering from schizophrenia as most schizophrenia medication is covered through Medicaid. Insel cautioned policymakers that these are just one set of findings and medication is necessary, but not sufficient, to treat mental disorders such as schizophrenia. He reiterated that more research is needed to inform policy decisions, including studies to determine what is most effective for individuals, what is most cost-effective, and the impact of psycho-social interventions.
Collins Takes The Reins At Biological Sciences Advisory Council Meeting
When the National Science Foundation's Biological Sciences Directorate Advisory Council (BIOAC) met on November 17-18, there was an air of anticipation in the room: this was to be Dr. James Collins' public debut as the new Assistant Director. Following decades under the leadership of plant biologist Dr. Mary Clutter, the meeting was particularly well attended by program staff who were no doubt keen to hear about Dr. Collin's vision for the Directorate. However, it was lonely for those in the advocacy community as a round of introductions indicated that Science Policy Director Geoff Mumford was the only outsider in the room.
Dr. Collins opened the meeting by providing his perspective on "How to operate the BIO of today while becoming the BIO of tomorrow". In addition, the BIOAC received updates on the plant genome research program and the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The rest of the first day was devoted to presentations on the NSF-wide cyberinfrastucture initiative.
At several points, Collins expressed a genuine interest in, and appreciation for, the value of inter-Directorate collaboration as NSF aspires to fund more "transformational" research. So much so, in fact, that the next BIOAC meeting will be held jointly with the SBE and CISE Advisory Councils (likely on April 24 - 25).
On the morning of the November 18, Dr. Tom Brady, Division Director of Integrative Organismal Biology, provided a summary of the BIO Broadening Participation Working Group, which highlighted NSF efforts to enhance the diversity of biological scientists. Next, NSF Director Arden Bement met with the BIOAC, and like Collins before him, paid tribute to the SBE sciences, highlighting the need to get more social scientists involved in other scientific fields. With a nod to human factors research in an increasingly technologically oriented world, he asked rhetorically: "How are people going to use technology without attention to the person-machine interface?" He noted that recent history was rife with examples of the unintended consequences of not managing technology well. "Not anticipating ethical issues or hazards [of new technologies] could be counterproductive and points to the need for more input from the social sciences…social sciences are getting harder all the time."
The changes in leadership within NSF overall, and the Biological Sciences Directorate in particular, may provide renewed hope for psychologists who were feeling discouraged as they saw program support for areas such as animal learning and cognition wither under the previous administration. Toward the close of the meeting, Dr. Collins indicated that he would be expanding the size of the Advisory Council and opened a call for nominations. When I asked Dr. Collins what sort of psychological scientists might complement the existing roster, he mentioned psychoneuroendocrinology and evolutionary psychology as two subdisciplines of interest (although that shouldn't preclude nominations from other areas). Science Policy staff will be looking to Division leadership for nominations and revisiting program content areas with NSF staff between now and the next BIOAC meeting.
Doubling of VA Mental Health Research Budget Survives Conference
As reported in a previous issue of SPIN, the House of Representatives proposed earlier this year a doubling of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health research budget in FY 2006, at a time when Science Policy staff had been advocating strongly for increased attention to and funding for VA psychological research. On November 18, the House and Senate agreed on a final appropriations bill for the VA, and the conference agreement includes this House direction to double the mental health research budget within the overall $412 million VA medical and prosthetic research program. In addition, the legislation will require a comprehensive study on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder focusing on improving research, care and access to information. The congressional conferees also strongly encouraged the VA to "consider designating specialized medical treatment facilities for mental health and post traumatic stress disorder as Centers of Excellence" and required a report from the VA in six months outlining progress made in this area.
CDC Publishes Research Agenda for Comment
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published the "Health Protection Research Guide 2006-2015," and is accepting public comment on the 150-page document through January 16, 2006. You may register to enter comments online here.
Among the goals addressed in the research agenda (with the document chapter number listed below) are:
III. Prevent and Control Infectious Diseases, including sections on behavioral, social and economic research in infectious diseases; and special populations and infectious diseases, particularly health disparities;
IV. Promote Preparedness to Protect Health, including sections of risk appraisal and adaptive behavior during an extreme event; risk and recovery in vulnerable populations; public health workforce preparedness; and communications;
V. Promote Health to Reduce the Burden of Chronic Diseases and Disability, including sections on health across the lifespan; child and adolescent development; reducing burdens of disparities in, and risk factors for chronic diseases among adults, older adults, and persons with disabilities;
VI. Create Safe Places to Live, Work, Learn and Play, including sections on environmental and occupational health, injury and violence;
VII. Work Together to Build a Healthy World, including sections on global prevention and health promotion;
VIII. Manage and Market Health Information, with sections on public health data and informatics, health marketing and health literacy;
IX. Cross Cutting Research, including sections on social, anthropological and behavioral sciences in public health; mental health and well-being; and social determinants of health and health disparities.
APA plans to survey divisions to gather comments to this document, but would like to take comments from individual scientists directly as well. Please contact Pat Kobor with any comments by January 8, 2006.