Just when psychological science appears to be gaining a foothold in the homeland security and intelligence communities, countervailing forces are working against it on Capitol Hill. The Homeland Security Federal Workforce Act (S. 589), which passed the Senate late last year, establishes a graduate fellowship program that explicitly excludes social sciences from eligibility.
According to the definitions in the bill, the term "science" means any of the natural and physical sciences, including chemistry, biology, physics and computer science. The legislation says the term does not include any of the social sciences.
Building on an earlier law (the National Security Education Act of 1991), which was meant to foster both science and foreign-language competency in federal agencies through graduate fellowships, the rationale for the exclusion in the new bill isn't clear. It's possible, however, that because social sciences had fared reasonably well in the old program, the new one sought an exclusionary niche to increase the representation of non-social science disciplines in agencies with national security interests.
Whatever the real reason, APA science policy staff members are seeking removal of the exclusionary language by working closely with the two House committees to which the bill has been referred. At Monitor press time, it was unclear how the House will deal with the offending language, but updates will be available via the science policy e-newsletter, SPIN (www.apa.org/ppo/spin).
--G. MUMFORDGeoff Mumford, PhD, is APA's director of science policy.