Also in this Issue
NIH Pioneer Award Symposium Highlights Psychology
On September 22-23, the National Institutes of Health hosted a symposium of previous NIH Pioneer Award recipients and included a presentation from 2007 Pioneer award winner Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory at Boston College, who presented her innovative research on understanding emotion. The Pioneer awards were created to stimulate innovative and high impact work, and the research projects funded "must reflect ideas substantially different from those already being pursued in the investigator's laboratory or elsewhere." Dr. Barrett's project proposes a new model of understanding emotion as a conceptual act that results from the interplay of one's core affect, or internal bodily state, and one's conceptual system of understanding of emotion rather than a distinct reaction to an event. Her work challenges the prevailing wisdom that emotions are a distinct event with a dedicated evolutionary place in the brain and could have implications for the understanding of many mental and physiological disorders that are impacted by emotional reactions or perceptions.
Dr. Li Retires as Director of NIAAA
On September 18, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) held its Fall Advisory Council meeting, and a surprise guest arrived with an announcement. Dr. Raynard Kington, Deputy Director of NIH, appeared on behalf of Dr. Elias Zerhouni to announce that after six years as NIAAA Director, Dr. Ting Kai Li was retiring. (Dr. Zerhouni was unable to make the announcement himself having been called upon by President Nicolas Sarkozy to participate in a review of the French equivalent to NIH.) Dr. Li has been a stalwart friend to the behavioral and social science community while at NIAAA and demonstrated his commitment to psychological research early on with the appointment of APA Fellow Dr. Mark Goldman as Associate Director of the institute during his first year. During Dr. Li's tenure, many important programmatic initiatives were launched and led by NIAAA staff psychologists, including research on college binge drinking, prevention and underage drinking, and revised treatment approaches. The latter will be the focus of the second Friends of NIAAA educational briefing on Capitol Hill next month, entitled "Alcoholism Isn't What It Used to Be: New Findings Foreshadow Shifts in Treatment Strategies."
Furthering this type of outreach was among the topics of a Council presentation by APA Fellow Dr. Peter Monti, who provided a review of NIAAA's efforts to promote health communications. The presentation was one in a series of Extramural Advisory Board reviews of the institute's programs which have served as a model of evaluation and transparency for constituents wanting to know more about NIAAA investments.
Dr. Li will be sorely missed by the NIH community, by the Friends of NIAAA, and by his many fans both here at APA HQ and within the broader APA research community.
APA Makes Final Push to Increase Funding for VA Research in FY09
As we write September SPIN items, none of the individual federal appropriations bills funding the government for the coming year have passed Congress, despite the Fiscal Year 2009 start on October 1 and Congress' imminent recess to return home for election year campaigning. A stop-gap funding bill, known as a Continuing Resolution, has passed both the House and Senate and is on its way to the President for signature into law. The Continuing Resolution will provide current levels of funding through March for most agencies, with a few notable exceptions.
Within this Continuing Resolution bill, the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will receive their full Fiscal Year 2009 funding rather than just temporary support at 2008 levels. APA's Science GRO has taken advantage of Congress' determination to increase funding for these particular agencies by working with the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) coalition to make a final push for increasing the VA research account in the Continuing Resolution. Letters were sent to the Chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging them to "conference" their earlier VA research appropriations levels and provide $555 million to both meet ongoing research commitments and fund additional innovative grant proposals from VA scientists. Congress provided $510 million for VA research in the Continuing Resolution, short of our coalition request but substantially higher than the President's initial request of $442 million.