Also in this Issue

APA Comments on NIDA Strategic Plan; Psychologist Jason Kilmer Briefs NIAAA Advisory Council on College Drinking; NIDA Supported Research Informs Hearing on Sentencing Guidelines; NICHD Director Addresses Impact of Flat Budgets; Science GRO Presents Advocacy Plan at AAAS Convention; APA Seeks to Increase Profile of NIJ Research; CNSF Meeting with Rep. Vern Ehlers Regarding FY09 Support for NSF; SPSP Honors APA Advocacy Staff; NINDS Budget Update;

APA Comments on NIDA Strategic Plan

On February 6, Steve Breckler, Executive Director for Science, submitted comments on the draft strategic plan for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The comments, compiled by Science Government Relations staff, focused primarily on one of NIDA’s four goal areas—prevention—and represented an integration of the views from a number of individual APA members and governance groups. The due date coincided with NIDA’s winter Advisory Council meeting. Dr. Volkow’s Director’s Report, as well as presentations on Mentored Career Development Award Outcomes, Relapse to Food Seeking, and Strategies to Identify and Increase Innovative Research, can all be viewed here.

Science Government Relations staff are busily planning the next Friends of NIDA educational briefing on the topic of gene/environment determinants in addiction. Among those presenting at the April 8 Capitol Hill event will be APA member Dr. Caryn Lerman, Mary W. Calkins Professor and Director of the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania. She will discuss emerging research on the role of genetic influences in smoking cessation and response to treatments for nicotine addiction. For more information on the briefing, please contact Anne Bettesworth.

Psychologist Jason Kilmer Briefs NIAAA Advisory Council on College Drinking

On February 7, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) held its winter Advisory Council meeting. In his report to Council, NIAAA Director Dr. Ting-Kai Li reviewed recent NIAAA activities and graciously took the time to publicly thank APA for its leadership in organizing the November 15 congressional briefing on underage drinking research and the first Friends of NIAAA meeting last month. Following the Director’s report, psychologist Jason Kilmer provided the Council with an update on his ongoing College Drinking studies at the University of Washington and Evergreen State College. Dr. Kilmer was kind enough to provide his PowerPoint slides for reference in SPIN with the understanding that the data represent preliminary analyses. Next, Dr. Robert Saltz, Associate Director and Senior Research Scientist of the Prevention Research Center at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, provided a summary of Interventions to Reduce College Student Drinking and Consequences. Finally, Dr. Fulton Crews provided a summary of NIAAA’s Extramural Advisory Board review of NIAAA’s health services research portfolio.

NIDA Supported Research Informs Hearing on Sentencing Guidelines

On February 12, basic science informed policy in an unusual setting - the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. The hearing, entitled “Federal Cocaine Sentencing Laws: Reforming the 100-to-1 Crack/Powder Disparity,” followed a recent ruling by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce the disparity in sentencing guidelines for those convicted of dealing two different forms of cocaine and, in certain cases, to make those reductions retroactive.

While the debate on the rationale for retroactivity may continue, NIDA Director Nora Volkow appeared before the subcommittee to discuss the basic psychopharmacology of the drug. Volkow’s testimony, which covered the epidemiology and medical consequences of crack and powder cocaine addiction, also made clear that differences in the subjective effects of alternate forms of cocaine are related to the route of administration (i.e., whether the drug is injected, smoked, or snorted). In a nod to the critical role psychological science has played in helping to stem the tide, Volkow noted that no medication has yet proven effective in treating cocaine dependence, but that several behavioral therapies have. Chairman Biden has introduced legislation (S 1711, the Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act of 2007), drawing from NIDA supported research, to reinforce changes to the sentencing guidelines.

NICHD Director Addresses Impact of Flat Budgets

On February 27, the Friends of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) met with NICHD Director Duane Alexander to discuss the impact of the President’s proposed budget on the institute. As reported earlier, the NICHD received flat funding of $1.254 billion in FY08 and the Bush Administration proposed level funding again in FY09. This will restrict funding to less than 400 competing grants and mean that fewer new initiatives or RFA’s will be forthcoming. It will also lead to a reduction in conference support and travel for agency staff to scientific meetings across the country. Individual investigators can expect funding to be even more competitive, as the institute will have the resources to fund only up to the 15th percentile, and the budgets for individual grants may be reduced by 15 to 20 percent.

On the bright side, NICHD is hoping to move forward with implementing its new research plan on Down Syndrome that was developed last year, as well as new research on math learning disabilities. The Friends of NICHD is planning a coalition-wide lobby day in April to meet with appropriators about the need for increased funding for the institute and NIH as a whole.

Science GRO Presents Advocacy Plan at AAAS Convention

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) invited APA’s Science GRO staff to participate in a panel on science advocacy at their annual convention in Boston over President’s Day weekend. Science GRO’s Heather Kelly delivered a talk on “Advocacy in the Trenches: Making the Behavioral and Social Sciences Policy Relevant” and highlighted how APA approaches advocacy on Capitol Hill and within the executive branch agencies. The session was organized by members of AAAS’ Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility, and both AAAS staff and scientists at the session were impressed with the extent and sophistication of APA’s advocacy efforts.

APA Seeks to Increase Profile of NIJ Research

When Science GRO recently expanded its advocacy efforts by seeking out research funding opportunities for behavioral scientists, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), within the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs, seemed like a logical place to start. NIJ is the research, development, and evaluation arm of the DOJ and funds research on—and evaluations of—a broad spectrum of criminal justice and public safety programs, from crime prevention to prisoner reentry. Under the Administration’s proposed FY09 budget, the NIJ would receive $34.7 million, equal to its FY08 funding level and a dramatic 32 percent decrease from the FY07 level of $54.3 million. APA has advocated on behalf of DOJ programs for decades, and will add a focus this year on educating Congress about the important role of NIJ research, as well the need to restore funding cuts to the agency.

CNSF Meeting with Rep. Vern Ehlers Regarding FY09 Support for NSF

Each year the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), of which APA is an active member, meets with Congressman Vern Ehlers (R-MI), a physicist and passionate supporter of science and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in particular. In our February meeting with Rep. Ehlers, he reiterated the crucial role played by scientists in advocating for research on Capitol Hill and getting more involved in the political arena. He also asked for the coalition members’ support again this spring in getting other Members of Congress to support increased funding for NSF at the level authorized in the recently-passed America COMPETES Act.

The appropriations process is now underway, with Congress beginning to draft their funding bills for executive branch agencies in response to the President’s proposed budget. Earlier the same day in the House, Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), psychologist and Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee’s Research and Science Education Subcommittee (on which Rep. Ehlers is Republican Ranking Member), heard from the NSF Director about the FY09 budget. Chairman Baird questioned why the proposed increase for the NSF Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) Sciences Directorate was small compared to other disciplinary directorates, and strongly encouraged NSF to support the SBE sciences with increases similar to other sciences.

SPSP Honors APA Advocacy Staff

Science GRO staff members Heather Kelly and Karen Studwell received Awards for Distinguished Service on Behalf of Social-Personality Research at the annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) conference in Albuquerque earlier this month. In presenting the award, SPSP President Jack Dovidio highlighted their ongoing and often behind-the-scenes efforts to enhance funding for social and personality psychological research at the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Studwell and Kelly were also recognized for their leadership in defending researchers from congressional attempts to rescind funding from peer reviewed research at these agencies.

NINDS Budget Update

NINDS held its 171st Advisory Council meeting earlier this month, just a couple days after the President rolled out his FY09 budget request. For the sixth straight year, the President’s proposed budget freezes NIH funding levels at about $29.2 billion. As this readership knows, flat funding the NIH essentially amounts to a cut in federal support of biomedical and behavioral research because it fails to keep pace with inflation. Last year’s dollar simply doesn’t go as far this year. The NINDS FY09 budget would remain at about $1.5 billion. In the years since the NIH doubling ended in 2003, often called the “undoubling” period, NINDS research grant applications have increased a whopping 50 percent. To make matters worse, the payline for funding dropped from a slim 12th percentile in 2006 to the 9th percentile in 2008. But there is some good news. In an effort to prevent a decline in new investigator support, NINDS continues to fund new investigators up to the 25th percentile. The Institute reached its 2007 goal of funding 128 new investigators that year. In order to fulfill the promise of advances in biomedical and behavioral research at NINDS, APA supports a 6.5 percent budget increase for FY09. Remember, the President’s budget proposal is only a starting point.

The next NINDS Council meeting will be in May. For more news, visit the NINDS website.

Brain Awareness Week is March 10-16! Visit the Society for Neuroscience website to read about the upcoming activities in your area.