Also in this Issue

Upcoming Briefing on the Genetics of Addiction; FDA Holds Inaugural Meeting of Risk Communication Advisory Committee; Second Chance Act Passes Both Chambers of Congress; Congressional Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Fair; Big Month for APA Advocacy on Veterans’ Issues; APA Weighs in on Juvenile Justice Reauthorization; National Academies Assess NIJ; NIDA Offers Candid Perspective As Budgets Tighten; National Mathematics Advisory Panel Calls for More Research

Upcoming Briefing on the Genetics of Addiction

On April 8, the Friends of NIDA is hosting its tenth briefing as part of an ongoing series to educate members of Congress about emerging research on drug abuse and addiction. “The Genetics of Addiction” will discuss the complicated, interdependent role of genetics, environmental, and developmental factors as contributing influences leading to drug abuse and addiction. One of the briefing presenters, psychologist Caryn Lerman, Mary W. Calkins Professor and Director of the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, will talk about the role of genetic influences in smoking cessation and response to treatments for nicotine addiction

NIDA is supporting research to define and measure aspects of the social environment to understand how genes may mitigate or amplify social influences, known to powerfully affect individual choices and behaviors related to substance abuse. Click here to view a summary of this research.

For more information on the briefing or to RSVP, please email Anne Bettesworth.

FDA Holds Inaugural Meeting of Risk Communication Advisory Committee

On February 28, psychological science was well represented as the FDA convened the first meeting of the Risk Communication Advisory Committee, which will be dealing with a number of issues related to provisions of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007. APA Fellow Baruch Fischhoff, Howard Heinz University Professor in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences and Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, chaired the meeting. Psychologist Nancy Ostrove, FDA’s Senior Advisor for Risk Communication, provided an overview and context for the meeting, and APA member Michael Wogalter provided commentary at the close of a session on communicating about product recalls. All of the presentation materials are available from the FDA website.

Second Chance Act Passes Both Chambers of Congress

On March 12, the Senate cleared the House-passed version of the Second Chance Act, an offender rehabilitation bill that incorporates many treatment provisions rooted in science and based on years of psychological research sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and other divisions of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice. That action clears the way for consideration of the bill by the White House. Over the past year, Science GRO made sure that both the House and Senate were aware of the importance of that research. In March 2007, Science GRO helped APA member Dr. Roger Peters prepare testimony that he delivered before the House Judiciary Committee and facilitated a personal meeting with Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) immediately following the hearing.

Earlier that year, Science GRO had arranged a focused briefing for Senate Judiciary Committee staff on behalf of the Friends of NIDA. This briefing was an extension of advocacy that the Friends had initiated around the release of NIDA's research-based guide entitled "Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations." In October 2006, a copy of the guide was delivered to every Congressperson's office on Capitol Hill.

Congressional Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Fair

On March 12, APA joined over thirty participating organizations in the Congressional Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Taskforce’s Annual TBI Awareness Fair. Janet Niemeier, a rehabilitation psychologist at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medical College of Virginia, represented APA and highlighted the contributions of rehabilitation psychologists to developing improved diagnosis, assessments and treatments for patients with TBI. Niemeier’s own research is funded by both the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research and the National Institutes of Health’s National Center on Medical Rehabilitation Research, and focuses on improving cognition in TBI recovery. As a participant in the Fair, she spoke to Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Chairman of the Congressional Brain Injury Taskforce, congressional staff and other attendees about the cognitive, social, physical, vocational, behavioral and emotional issues that are part of psychological rehabilitation.

Big Month for APA Advocacy on Veterans’ Issues

Science GRO took advantage of a number of opportunities in March to advocate for psychological research at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Most prominently, on March 13, Dr. Steve Breckler (Executive Director for Science) presented APA’s annual testimony on VA research funding before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Administration, and Related Agencies. He urged Congress to reverse another round of planned Administration cuts to the VA research budget and highlighted the critical roles played by VA psychologists in advancing the science underpinning veterans’ health care. During the hearing there was bipartisan support from Representatives for increasing the research account by substantial amounts in Fiscal Year 2009. Both written and oral testimony were submitted on the House side (Senate deadlines for testimony are coming up in April), as well as suggested language on psychological research at the VA for inclusion in the accompanying appropriations reports.

Earlier in the month, the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) coalition held its annual briefing with member societies, high level VA Headquarters staff, and congressional staffers from VA authorizing and appropriations committees. Science GRO’s Heather Kelly sits on the six-person FOVA Executive Committee. The briefing provided an important forum for discussions with congressional staffers, VA Chief Research and Development Officer Joel Kupersmith, MD, and Michael Selzer, MD, PhD, Director of the VA’s Rehabilitation Research and Development program.

Science Directorate staff also had a chance to meet with representatives of the Association of VA Psychologist Leaders (AVAPL) during their annual trip to Washington in March. Based on our discussion with these psychologists, staff are scheduling a meeting with the VA research office to discuss IRB issues and potential changes to the internal VA IRB system.

APA Weighs in on Juvenile Justice Reauthorization

As SPIN readers may recall from previous articles, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), the law that guides federal investment in the nation’s juvenile justice system, is past due for reauthorization. In order to improve the bill before it is reauthorized, both Science and Public Interest GRO staff sought input from members of the juvenile justice and adolescent development communities. After collecting suggestions, Public Interest GRO drafted and sent a letter to the chair and ranking member of the relevant House and Senate committees, which included specific recommendations and legislative language.  Science GRO’s contributions to this effort included a section on strengthening the peer review process and on defining and promoting the use of evidence-based practices.

National Academies Assess NIJ

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is conducting a two-year, objective assessment of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The panel is examining the full range of NIJ programs in order to assess and make recommendations for NIJ’s short- and long-term strategic planning and budgeting processes and its organizational structure. This comprehensive review will consider the agency’s research and dissemination priorities based on the needs of important stakeholders and the limitations imposed by budget constraints.

Science GRO’s Anne Bettesworth attended the second meeting of the panel on March 28. The panel heard feedback from former Attorneys General Janet Reno and Richard Thornburgh, as well as from a group of practitioners and a group representing various practitioners’ organizations. NIJ staff, also involved, answered questions and provided an overview of the Office of Research and Evaluation and the Office of Science and Technology.

Much of the day’s discussion revolved around the organizational location and structure of NIJ, the agency’s priorities and how these priorities are set, how funding for social science research can be enhanced, and ways to raise the overall visibility of NIJ. Science GRO will continue to monitor and report on this assessment as it unfolds.

NIDA Offers Candid Perspective As Budgets Tighten

In an attempt to address various issues related to how priorities at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) might shift in an era of flat NIH budgets, NIDA has offered a candid assessment of where it has made the biggest impact, what its priorities will be, where it will have to trim back, and what opportunities it will have to forego. On the up-side, the planning document also highlights many of NIDA’s efforts to translate research into practice, the breadth of its training activities, and its effort to promote public/private partnerships.  Visit the NIDA/NIH website for more information about the Frequently Asked Questions.

National Mathematics Advisory Panel Calls for More Research

The Bush Administration’s National Mathematics Advisory Panel has issued its final report, after spending the past two years reviewing more than 16,000 research publications and policy reports and talking with over 100 other experts and organizations. Among its recommendations, the panel called for additional research, including “both smaller-scale experiments on the basic science of learning and larger-scale randomized experiments examining effective classroom practices…to ensure the coherent growth of research addressing important questions in mathematics education.” While focused primarily on ensuring that children have the math skills needed to succeed in Algebra, the panel also noted the importance of changing children’s beliefs from a focus on ability to a focus on effort, as experimental studies have shown these changes to increase student engagement and persistence in math learning, as well as mathematics outcomes.