Also in this Issue
Science PPO Anticipates and Responds to Senator's Threat to Behavioral Research at NSF
APA's Science Directorate and PPO staff have been alert to possible threats to psychological research from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), new Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Science and Space, since a speech she gave in Texas earlier this year in which she decried the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) funding for social and behavioral science. Executive Director for Science Steve Breckler and PPO's Heather Kelly met with her staff immediately after the text of the speech was publicized, to reinforce both the importance of NSF's support for all sciences and the unique contributions of psychological science to a range of national challenges.
On May 2, the situation intensified, when Sen. Hutchison's Subcommittee held a hearing on "NSF's Fiscal Year 2007 budget request, research priorities, current plans and activities, and its support for the American Competitiveness Initiative and related activities." NSF Director Arden Bement, Association for the Advancement of Science CEO Alan Leshner, and National Science Board Chairman Warren Washington responded to Senators' questions. There clearly were members of the Subcommittee opposed to NSF using any increase in its budget for the support of social or behavioral science, and some even questioned whether NSF should be supporting social and behavioral science at all.
On May 16, PPO learned behind the scenes from congressional staff that Sen. Hutchison planned to introduce an amendment to S. 2802, a bill being drafted in the full Commerce Committee focusing on increasing America's competitiveness and innovation (hot buzzwords used to justify increasing science funding this year around the White House and on Capitol Hill). The amendment would instruct NSF not only to assess the degree to which grant proposals contribute to the enhancement of physical science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but also to give priority to them to the exclusion of other kinds of science.
On May 17, APA issued an action alert urging our members to call key Senators to oppose Sen. Hutchison's amendment and support an alternative amendment by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) eliminating Sen. Hutchison's language). Within a day, we heard back from Hill staff that a compromise amendment had been drafted clarifying that in giving priority to some fields of science, no bias or restrictions could be placed on any other fields of science that fall within the agency's mission. While not drawing any direct or at least sole causation, we know that scientists made an impact on the Hill and we thank you for joining us in the advocacy effort.
Washington Goes to SIOP
Science PPO's Heather Kelly led an invited CE workshop at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) conference in Dallas on May 6. In "SIOP Goes to Washington: Advocating for I-O Psychology," Heather gave participants a broad overview of how and when I-O psychologists can weigh in on relevant issues within their own organizations (including APA), local communities, and state and federal government. This included interactive discussions about Science PPO's engagement with APA divisions around policy issues, the federal legislative process, strategies and concrete skills for I-O psychologists to use in advocating for their science, and short- and long-term opportunities for putting these advocacy skills into practice.
Continued Emphasis for User-Friendly Research at IES
On May 8-9, the Institute of Education Sciences' advisory board, the National Board for Education Sciences, met to discuss the current and future research priorities and other activities of the institute. In order to learn how it can make its research more relevant to practitioners, IES has invited several representatives from the education community to talk with the Board about their own needs. At this meeting, the Board heard from John Winn, Commissioner of the Florida Board of Education and Valerie Woodruff, the Secretary of Education for the state of Delaware. Mr. Winn explained that the state's primary role in education is to set standards, monitor progress and allocate resources and what they need are improved mechanisms for determining the effect of policy decisions or new programs that have been implemented. IES Director Russ Whitehurst and others on the Board indicated that to accurately evaluate interventions, incremental or limited implementation would be necessary to allow for control groups, which poses particular challenges for researchers and administrators alike. Mr. Winn agreed that it would be a challenge, as most education reforms are implemented across an entire state and often include multiple new programs or initiatives, which make it difficult to determine the effect of any given program.
Ms. Woodruff indicated that several areas of primary importance were the decline in math and reading performance in middle and high school and that administrators are looking for the best practices or programs that are effective at all levels and with all students, particularly children with a wide range of physical or learning disabilities or children for whom English is a second language. Additional research would also be helpful on the social needs of children during young adolescence when students often decline in their academic progress.
One of the working groups of the Board is currently reviewing the research portfolio within the National Center for Education Research. Most of the grants were focused on reading, writing, cognition, and teacher quality. The working group raised some concern that the balance of the research portfolio did not meet with research priorities of IES and will be looking for possible mechanisms to improve the balance within the Center.
In June, IES will hold a meeting of all its grantees, where they will hear from speakers regarding issues that are important within the context of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
NIMH Council Meeting Update
On May 12, The National Advisory Mental Health Council met and heard first from Director Tom Insel, MD regarding the budget and its impact on NIMH's research portfolio. Given the historic cut to the NIH budget last year and the continued increase in the number of grants submitted to NIMH, it has become even more difficult for investigators to receive funding. Insel reiterated the current NIMH funding guidelines, in which NIMH funds most grants in the top tenth percentile, and half the grants between the 10th and 20th percentile, depending on three main factors: relevance, traction, and innovation. Based on this system, Insel indicated that seventy-nine percent of the grants in the top tenth percentile and eighty-six percent of those grants in between the tenth and twentieth percentile were in line with at least one NIMH priority.
Additionally, Susan Essock, Ph.D. provided an update from the Working Group on Services and Clinical Epidemiology, which identified six areas of emphasis, including: 1) partnerships in outreach; 2) quality; 3) fairness; 4) promoting recovery and resilience; 5) communication; and 6) ongoing evaluation. Some of the specific suggested topics for research included new psychosocial interventions to augment medications for schizophrenia, integrated mental health and substance abuse treatments, cognitive behavior therapy across the lifespan, treatments for youth with disruptive disorders or ADHD. The Working Group also suggested that NIMH adopt more flexible funding mechanisms, create supplements for intervention research that will also look at implementation, and add new institute staff with the capacity to identify current policy issues, and look for ways to partner with state mental health directors and other private and public payers.
NIH tells Congress basic behavioral research is well supported
On May 15, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni sent a report to Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) responding to congressional concerns about NIH's support of basic behavioral and social sciences research. NIH had been asked to provide a report detailing its progress to the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees in Report No. 109-337, the conference agreement that provided funding for NIH for Fiscal Year 2006.
Several members of Congress had expressed concern that the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, whose mission is to fund basic research at NIH, has traditionally funded almost no basic behavioral or social sciences research. U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) and Patrick Kennedy (D-MA) organized several colleagues to send letters to encourage NIH to prevail on NIGMS to make additional investments in basic behavioral research, and to encourage other institutes and centers to do more as well.
The report seeks to mollify Congress that plenty is being done to support basic behavioral and social science research. NIGMS has increased its support with two program announcements and an interdisciplinary training program. Many institutes and centers, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Mental Health, and National Cancer Institute, have active programs of basic research. The report cites NIH estimates that of the $3 billion going to behavioral and social sciences research, approximately $1 billion is considered to constitute basic research.
So, is NIH doing enough? We in the Science Policy Office think this is a good context for the maxim, "What you see depends on where you look." Yes, NIH is supporting a lot of basic research, but some types of basic behavioral research do not have stable homes at NIH. There is a double standard when it comes to research that is not done in a disease context or within a disease population. Basic research on group behavior is not automatically assumed to be relevant to health, e.g. the spread of influenza, whereas basic cell biology research is. Social psychologists have seen some traditional funding sources dry up. Scientists who do research on language origin and acquisition, especially with bird models, may have a hard time getting support at the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Scientists who study basic risk and decision-making have had little support from NIH. Finally, as NIH budget growth has slowed, and the success rates at most institutes have fallen, it is no wonder that some researchers feel discouraged. The NIH report implies that times are tough for lots of sciences, not only for the behavioral and social sciences.
However, is this all just a budget issue? We think not. Unlike NIH, we at APA are not ready to declare victory. The behavioral and social sciences have come a long way at NIH, but as some institutes change priorities, and some institutes who ought to change priorities don't, there are still many areas in which advocacy is needed so that the playing field is level for behavioral and social science. We don't believe NIH is supporting enough basic behavioral research, or enough translational and applied research, and will continue to make our case to sympathetic members of Congress and the NIH leadership.
Please let us know your comments on the NIH report and its support of basic behavioral and social science research by contacting Pat Kobor.
Good News about the Fiscal Year 2007 Budget
The House of Representatives passed its FY 2007 budget resolution (H.Con.Res. 376) by a vote of 218 to 210. The budget included a statement recognizing that $7.158 billion additional authority for health and education spending is needed. Led by U.S. Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), a deal was brokered with the House leadership to include the same level of funding as was approved by the Senate in the Specter-Harkin amendment.
According to a summary of the agreement released by Rep. Castle, over $6 billion was shifted from Defense and Foreign Operations accounts into other areas of domestic discretionary spending; $4.1 billion of which was shifted to the jurisdiction of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Rep. Castle's statement said, "Upon further negotiations Republican leadership has assured moderates that there will be no less than $3.1 billion, above the $4.1 billion, for health research, education funding for disabled and low-income students, Centers for Disease Control, after school care, vocational education, and the National Institutes of Health and other programs to benefit constituents."
The budget votes should mean that there will be healthier increases for the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and education programs. However, some observers are not optimistic because the House will still need to find offsets for $3.1 billion of the proposed budget increases. Normally the House and Senate would attempt to reconcile the two versions of the budget, but since time is running out in this legislative session, Budget Committee members may not devote time to reconciling. Remember that the budget guides appropriations, but unlike appropriations bills, the budget does not have the force of law. There are still many decision points left between now and final enactment of the 2007 spending bills. Watch for additional information about the budget and appropriations.
Thanks to all the APA scientists who wrote to their members of Congress encouraging support of Rep. Castle's efforts. Grassroots involvement was key in persuading many Representatives to support budget increases for key health and education programs while the deficit remains high.
With NIH at a Crossroads Zerhouni Makes an Appearance at NIDA
On May 17, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni gave a presentation to the NIDA Advisory Council to try and allay some concerns and counter some myths circulating in the extramural research community. The presentation followed not long after a round of Congressional hearings during which Dr. Zerhouni was asked to describe what health benefits had accrued to the Nation by doubling the budget of the NIH. But those aren’t the questions the research community is concerned about; scientists want to know why their grant proposals aren’t faring as well as they have in the past. The answer, according to Dr. Zerhouni, relates to several factors that have all coalesced to create what he described as a Perfect Storm. The overarching problem of course is the budget. But are individual investigators feeling the pinch because NIH is over investing in translational research, or spending too much on big projects at the expense of RO1’s, or funneling too much money into the Roadmap initiatives? No, no and no was Dr. Zerhouni’s reply, and he provided data to show that the ratio of basic to applied research has remained relatively constant over the last decade; that unsolicited RO1’s have been funded at high and consistent rates during that same period; and that Roadmap activities only amount to 0.8% of the NIH budget. So what is really happening? Apparently it took some time for the research community and research institutions to build the capacity to take advantage of the doubling that ended in 2001 (Dr. Zerhouni quipped that there’s an informal competition amongst medical schools comparing themselves by the number of cranes they have on campus). So the real squeeze scientists are feeling now is the result of the surge in grant submissions that occurred in 2003, the failure of NIH budgets to keep up with inflation, and the roughly 4 years it takes for resources to become available as one slate of grants are terminated and a new set of awards begins. Dr. Zerhouni noted that because of increased applications per applicant (up from 1.2 to 1.5) the success rate is higher than it appears. Illustrating that point, Dr. Zerhouni showed that the success rate in 2005 was 22.3% per application, but 27.6 per applicant. So far. for 2006 the numbers are roughly 19.8% for applications and 25% for applicants. Dr. Zerhouni sounded a positive note for 2007, indicating that with the end of the 2003 surge, NIH should be funding 3% more grants even with a flat budget. Further, Council member Jeanne Brooks-Gunn noted that the snapshot approach may discourage newer investigators because it fails to take into account the enhanced success rates achieved as proposals are modified and improved across rounds of review. Dr. Zerhouni agreed and discussed a number of mechanisms, including the Pathway to Independence Program, to help nurture the careers of new investigators. Hopefully, SPIN readers are weathering this storm well and can look to a brighter future with NIH.
Two Fellows Chosen for APA/Department of Defense Summer Research Program
The Science Directorate congratulates the two fellows selected for our second annual APA Summer Research Fellowships in DoD Counterintelligence. The positions are designated for one post-doctoral scientist and one graduate student, both of whom will spend eight weeks this summer working on research projects in the Behavioral Sciences Directorate of the Department of Defense's Counterintelligence Field Activity Office (CIFA). Douglas "Chris" Johnson, PhD fills the postdoctoral slot. Dr. Johnson is a former U.S. Coast Guard Officer and FBI Counterintelligence Analyst, and currently serves as an Associate Research Scientist at Yale University. His research focuses on resilience under stress in military populations and memory, facial recognition and linguistic indicators of denial and deception. Whitney Wharton (MA, ABD), a fourth year graduate student at George Washington University with a research background in cognitive neuroscience, has been selected as the graduate student research fellow. CIFA Psychologists are looking forward to putting Chris and Whitney to work on a variety of issues, ranging from cultural issues in the detection of deception to cyber behavior and insider threat.
APA Scientist Richard Spoth to Present at Congressional Briefing on Preventing Drug Abuse
On June 12, The Friends of NIDA coalition will hold a briefing entitled "Preventing Drug Abuse: Putting Science to Practice" [PDF], with APA member Richard Spoth as a featured speaker. Spoth, Director of the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute at Iowa State University, will present empirical findings from his 15 years of NIDA-funded experimental research on partnership-based implementation of a range of interventions for youth and families, including long-term positive outcomes, economic benefits, success of the evidence-based PROSPER partnership model, and future directions in partnership network development.
Friends of NIDA briefings are supported with contributions from organization cosponsors. So far, next month's briefing has 11 cosponsors and counting. If your organization would like to cosponsor the event, or to find out more information about the Friends of NIDA, contact Sara Robinson.