Also in this Issue

Energy Hearing Provides Forum for Testimony by Social Psychologists; FDA Drug Abuse Advisory Subcommittee Re-Constituted; First Friends of NIAAA Briefing Will Focus on Underage Drinking; New APA Science Policy Fellow Placed at Department of Defense; Virginia Tech Psychologist Discusses Research on School Shooting on Capitol Hill; National Children’s Study Research Plan Under Review

Energy Hearing Provides Forum for Testimony by Social Psychologists

On September 25, APA Fellow Robert Cialdini and APA Member Duane Wegener testified before the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education of the House Committee on Science and Technology in a hearing entitled: The Contribution of the Social Sciences to the Energy Challenge. Chairman Brian Baird opened the hearing by saying, “This Committee and this Congress have held countless hearings on the energy technologies of tomorrow. What we don’t talk about is behavior – and how changes in behavior can start making a big dent in our energy challenge today.”

The hearing charter asked the witnesses to respond to a variety of questions including: What have you learned about what influences the decisions individuals make with respect to energy use? How can this research be used more effectively to inform policy? What basic social psychological research questions relevant to the energy challenge remain unanswered? Are there as yet undeveloped or underdeveloped technologies or methodologies that would help advance this research?

Drs. Cialdini and Wegener rose to the challenge describing pithy examples of counterintuitive research results and the role of interdisciplinary teams, respectively, in understanding a range of energy-related issues. For example, Cialdini’s testimony referenced his research in the hospitality industry in which he examined the note cards hotels leave in bathrooms to encourage guests to re-use their towels. His findings suggested that how those messages are framed can dramatically affect the extent to which guests change their behavior. In his testimony, Wegener, who is an Initiative Leader for Social, Economic, and Political Aspects of Energy Use and Policy with the Energy Center at Discovery Park, Purdue University, was able to describe how coupling social scientists with engineers in the early phases of research and development could help identify potential roadblocks to the adoption of new energy technologies (e.g., genetically engineered biofuels) before they hit the market. Dr. Wegener’s group recently received an NSF grant to support the work of the Center via the Human and Social Dynamics (HSD) competition.

Science GRO staff worked closely with Drs. Cialdini and Wegener in the weeks prior to the hearing to help them construct testimony and facilitate all the logistics associated with their appearance before the Subcommittee.

FDA Drug Abuse Advisory Subcommittee Re-Constituted

In August, a seven-year effort waged by APA, the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) and other scientific societies finally paid off with the reinstatement of a Drug Abuse Advisory Subcommittee at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Drug Abuse Advisory Committee (DAAC) was originally chartered in 1978 to serve a number of functions, including 1) advising on the scheduling of new medications with possible abuse potential; 2) providing guidance regarding new medications for the treatment of substance use disorders; and 3) developing guidelines relevant to substance abuse issues.

In 2000, when FDA announced that the DAAC was being dissolved, the drug abuse research community registered its concern in letters to, and in meetings with, FDA staff. Meanwhile, in response to a growing number of problematic post-marketing surveillance issues, the FDA chartered a new Drug Safety and Risk Management (DSaRM) Committee in 2002. In what appeared to be a compromise gesture, drug abuse issues were to be included in a standing Drug Abuse Advisory Subcommittee under the parent DSaRM; however that subcommittee was never populated and disappeared from the language of subsequent DSaRM Charters. Further, although the DSaRM members were identified as having expertise in a range of important fields such as epidemiology, risk management, and internal medicine, none of the members of the DSaRM were identified as experts in drug abuse. Across the years, Science Government Relations staff, working in conjunction with CPDD, continued to assert the need for a DAAC-like entity at FDA and submitted the names of dozens of recognized experts in drug abuse research for FDA’s consideration. Finally, in August, FDA notified APA that six of the APA/CPDD nominees had been accepted to serve on the Drug Abuse Advisory Subcommittee.

  • General information about FDA Advisory Committees and scheduled meetings can be found on the FDA website.

First Friends of NIAAA Briefing Will Focus on Underage Drinking

Science GRO staff, working in conjunction with the Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus in the House of Representatives, is organizing the first Friends of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) educational briefing to be held over lunch (12:00-2:00) on November 15 in room B-340 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The briefing will focus on underage drinking and will follow a model GRO staff have used successfully for Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) educational briefings.

To begin the briefing, NIAAA Director Dr. Ting-Kai Li will provide an overview of the lifespan approach NIAAA has developed to anchor its strategic planning and inform its Underage Drinking Research Initiative. APA Fellow Dr. Mark Goldman, Distinguished Research Professor and Director, Alcohol and Substance Use Research Institute, Department of Psychology, University of South Florida, will then describe the extent and nature of underage drinking and explain how it fits in a developmental framework. For the third presentation, APA Fellow Dr. Sandra Brown, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, will discuss her research on intervening with underage drinkers in various settings. Finally, Ms. Mimi Fleury, Founder of Community of Concern, will share her thoughts on how to take action as a parent, in schools, and at the community level.

The briefing is meant to complement NIAAA’s collaboration with the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office, which recently released “A Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking”. Science GRO staff are looking for other organizations interested in co-sponsoring this first briefing and in developing additional initiatives with the Friends of NIAAA. For more information about organizational co-sponsorship of this briefing, please contact Anne Bettesworth.

New APA Science Policy Fellow Placed at Department of Defense

Deborah Weber, PhD, a psychologist and APA member with an extensive background in education and neuroscience, will spend the year as APA’s 2007-2008 Science Policy Fellow working in the Department of Defense’s Counterintelligence Field Activity. Weber will work on research projects related to counterintelligence and counterterrorism. Applications are due January 8, 2008. For more information please contact Science Government Relations’ Dr. Heather Kelly.

Virginia Tech Psychologist Discusses Research on School Shooting on Capitol Hill

Danny Axsom, PhD, a social psychologist at Virginia Tech, represented APA at a September 18-19 Capitol Hill Lobby Day designed to support funding increases at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Axsom joined more than 40 scientists, engineers, and educators in visiting over 65 congressional offices from 11 states during a whirlwind two days of advocacy training and meeting with Members of Congress and their staff. He and his team met with five offices from the Virginia delegation, including both Senators (Warner-R and Webb-D) and three Representatives (Boucher-D, Scott-D and Wolfe-R). Scientists advocated for the Senate’s proposed increase in overall funding for NSF in FY08 as Congress heads towards either conference negotiations on the appropriations bill funding NSF or a large, omnibus bill funding numerous federal agencies. Axsom’s NSF-funded research was particularly timely to discuss with appropriators, given his data on anxiety, depression and coping styles in 800 undergraduate women at Virginia Tech collected prior to the mass shooting and his ability now to follow up post-shooting with that sample.

National Children’s Study Research Plan Under Review

For the past seven years, the National Children’s Study (NCS) has been in the planning and development phase. As the NCS moves into the initial recruitment and implementation phase, the Program Office solicited comments from the public on the research study plan. APA solicited comments from its members and committees and submitted these comments to the NICHD on September 25. In addition, the National Academies of Sciences’ Committee on National Statistics has appointed a panel to provide a peer review of the NCS research plan and is charged with assessing the scientific rigor of the NCS and the extent to which it is being carried out with methods, measures, and collection of data and specimens to maximize the scientific yield of the study. A report from the panel is expected by next summer.