Also in this Issue
Congressional Briefing Highlights Childhood Obesity Research at NICHD
On May 22, APA co-sponsored a Friends of NICHD congressional briefing to highlight the important contributions that NICHD is making to research on the multiple causes, treatments and preventive measures for childhood obesity. Gilman Grave, MD, Chief of the NICHD Endocrinology, Nutrition and Growth Branch; Jack Yanovski, MD, PhD, Head of NICHD's Intramural Unit on Growth and Obesity; and Jill Center, MPH, an NICHD Public Health Advisor, represented the breadth of the institute's research, from genetics to behavior to dissemination. Center also outlined NICHD's new public health education campaign, Media Smart Youth, focused on preventing childhood obesity. The audience included congressional staff from 25 House and Senate offices as well as members of the scientific community. In June, the House Appropriations Committee approved its annual funding bill for NIH that would provide $1.26 billion to NICHD, a $7 million decrease from FY06.
APA Advocates for Human-Centered Defense Research on the Hill
On May 24, Bill Strickland, APA member and Vice President of the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO), delivered APA's oral testimony on Fiscal Year 2007 funding for research within the Department of Defense (DoD) before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Testimony focused on reversing the proposed decline in support for DoD basic and applied research accounts in President Bush's budget (a 16.3% decrease over the current funding level).
In terms of the DoD behavioral research accounts more specifically, Strickland urged Senate appropriators on behalf of APA to avoid cutting human-centered military research in FY07. The service laboratories support research in the broad categories of personnel, training and leader development; warfighter protection, sustainment and physical performance; system interfaces and cognitive processing; and intelligence-related processes such as detection of deception. The May hearing was another opportunity to highlight how critical these areas are to national security and how important it is, in today's environment, for DoD to sponsor this mission-related research directly.
No Easy Answers for Funding the National Children's Study
Despite being targeted for elimination in the President's FY07 budget proposal, the Federal Advisory Committee to the National Children's Study (NCS), composed of scientists and community advocates, met from May 31 to June 1 to discuss the progress that has been made in planning the study, potential challenges to that progress, and future directions for the study.
The meeting began with a progress update by Peter Scheidt, MD, Director of the NCS, in which he detailed several funding issues. Scheidt stated that as of 2006, approximately $50 million had been spent for developing the protocol, establishing the six Vanguard Centers, identifying the study population, and developing measures for the NCS. However, the primary NCS funding stream, which is currently derived primarily from the budget of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), with some funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is in question. This is due in part to overall NIH budget cuts, but also to language in the President's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2007 that does not include funding for the NCS and recommends the closure of the NCS program office. However, the President's budget language stands in contrast to annual Congressional report language in support of the NCS.
To add to the confusion, while advocates for the NCS have continued to request that only new money be provided to fund the NCS, in June, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) approved its FY07 funding measure and directs NICHD to allocate $69 million of its current $1.26 billion budget to fund the study in FY07. The full House must still approve the bill and then it will be reconciled with a Senate funding measure. Attention now turns to the Senate LHHS Subcommittee, which is slated to mark-up its own version of the LHHS funding bill in July. APA and other scientific organizations are now focused on educating Senate Subcommittee staff about the importance of the NCS, but also the threats this allocation poses to the overall NICHD portfolio and individual investigators across all disciplines.The issue will likely be unresolved until after the November elections when Congress completes the appropriations process.
New NRC Committee on Military Research
Science Policy staffer Heather Kelly was invited to sit in on the inaugural meeting of a committee staffed by the National Research Council's Division on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE). APA member James Blascovich chairs the NRC Committee on Opportunities in Basic Research in the Behavioral and Social Sciences for the U.S. Military, and the June meeting in Washington, DC kicked off with a presentation from another APA member, Paul Gade, Chief of the Research and Advanced Concepts Office at the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. Heather will follow the work of the committee as it reviews work in the defense research area and lays out opportunities and challenges for future directions.
APA and AERA Collaborate on Capitol Hill Science Exhibit
APA co-sponsored an exhibit with the American Educational Research Association (AERA) for the annual Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) Capitol Hill Exhibit and Reception on June 7. Marcia Linn, University of California-Berkeley Chancellor's Professor and a Fellow of APA Divisions 15 and 35, presented her National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research on the use of technology in teaching middle- and high-school math and science. The evening event highlighted stellar research supported by NSF for Members of Congress and their staff. Given recent congressional threats to the NSF behavioral science portfolio, this was an important year to emphasize the critical roles psychological science plays in addressing national challenges such as science and math education. Linn discussed the results of her center's research with Members of Congress including Reps. Bob Etheridge (D-NC), Howard Coble (R-NC) and Vern Ehlers (R-MI), as well Arden Bement, Director of NSF, and his Deputy Director, Kathie Olsen.
Friends of NIDA Hold Congressional Briefing on Preventing Drug Abuse
APA Scientist Richard Spoth, PhD, was a featured speaker at the sixth in the Friends of NIDA coalition's educational briefing series, held on June 12 and entitled, "Preventing Drug Abuse: Putting Science to Practice for Real World Solutions". Dr. Spoth, Director of the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute at Iowa State University, presented 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. The science of preventing drug abuse has made great progress in recent years, largely due to NIDA's investment in long-term research on the biological, behavioral and environmental underpinnings of drug abuse behaviors and effective prevention programs.
Diane Eckert, a leader in a Fairfax community-based prevention coalition, discussed how evidence based practices have been effective within her community. Anna Freund, a Fairfax high school student, provided a rare youth perspective on the problem of adolescent drug abuse, and shared her experiences as a young advocate educating her peers on the risks and costs of drug abuse. Nora Volkow, MD, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, provided an overview of NIDA's drug abuse prevention research portfolio, highlighting important differences in the brain architecture and connectivity of adolescents, including research findings on how drugs affect adolescent brain plasticity in particular. The briefing drew an audience of approximately 100 people, including personal and committee staff from House and Senate offices.
NIMH Launches Inaugural Newsletter for Scientists
On June 26, the National Institute of Mental Health published the first issue of its e-mail newsletter, Inside NIMH, which aims to educate researchers about NIMH funding opportunities, trends, and plans. The first issue provides an update from Institute Director Tom Insel about NIMH's current budget and funding situation, as well as recent and future research funding initiatives and summaries of NIMH sponsored meetings.
House Holds Hearing on Mental Health Awareness
On June 28, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing to promote awareness of research, diagnosis, and treatments for serious mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia. The hearing was organized by Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), whose granddaughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder more than fifteen years ago. Witnesses included Tom Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health; Raymond DePaulo, Director of the Johns Hopkins University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; as well as psychologists Kay Redfield Jamison, founder of the UCLA Affective Disorders Clinic; and Diane Gooding, Associate Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Fifteen members of the Subcommittee attended the hearing, and many took the opportunity to express their support for more funding for mental health research as well as support for mental health parity legislation that would require insurance coverage for mental health issues. While the hearing was focused on reducing the stigma associated with these brain diseases, Subcommittee Chairman Nathan Deal (R-GA) opened the hearing by commenting that the biological nature of many mental disorders cannot be separated from environmental factors, a statement that was further supported by the Dr. Gooding's testimony. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), a child psychologist, emphasized that mental health treatments are more than just medication. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WS) asked the panel about the impact of recent NIH budget cuts and the impact on future research as she had heard many more researchers are not being funded. Jamison and Gooding agreed that these cuts are making it harder for research projects to receive funding or for investigators to collect enough pilot data for their larger studies to move forward. Insel added that the U.S. invests $4.76 per American per year on mental health research and perhaps that level should be reconsidered, given the $170 billion that mental disorders cost in terms of treatments and lost productivity.