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SPIN - Science Policy Insider NewsAPA's Science Policy Insider News
July 2003

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House Defeats Attempt to De-Fund Selected NIH Grants, Senate Debate Expected in September

On July 10, 2003, during debate on the appropriations bill to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS), the House of Representatives narrowly defeated an amendment offered by Rep. Patrick Toomey (R-PA) to defund five NIH grants on sexual behavior. The vote was a close 210-212.

APA and other behavioral science and public health organizations worked tirelessly to get out information about the amendment and persuade House members to vote no. The APA Public Policy Office sent out two electronic action alerts to SPIN readers and the Public Policy Advocacy Network (PPAN) to let psychologists know about the dangerous amendment, and many responded by emailing or calling their member of Congress.

Appropriations LHHS Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Regula (R-OH), Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Bill Young (R-FL), Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-CA-50) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-8-MI) spoke against the amendment on the House floor. Ranking minority member David Obey (D-7-WI) and APA member Rep. Brian Baird (D-3-WA) both eloquently defended the funded research and the peer review process.

Rumors abounded that a similar amendment would be offered the following week during the Senate debate on the LHHS spending bill and another alert was sent. However, due to prolonged debate on other legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security, the Senate will not be bringing the bill to the floor until after the congressional August recess. Public Policy staff will continue to work the congressional staff to educate them on the importance of sexual health and behavior research and may again ask for our members to engage in some advocacy efforts.

Information about the issue, including summaries of the targeted grants, the House floor debate and how members of Congress voted.

House Passes Labor-HHS Spending bill -- No Senate Action Yet

On July 10, the House of Representatives passed legislation to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education for the 2004 fiscal year (which begins October 1, 2003). The narrow vote on the bill's final passage (215-208) reflected the fact that not a single Democratic House member voted in favor. Despite the excitement generated by the Toomey amendment, funding for NIH was not the real controversy-- funding for education programs was. Democrats argued that the bill underfunded federal programs for education by as much as $8 billion.

The House bill contained $27.66 billion for NIH, an increase of approximately 2 percent. The House appropriations committee leadership pointed out that the increase for NIH research would actually come closer to 7 percent because of various accounting maneuvers.

The Senate bill was expected to come to the floor shortly on the heels of the House bill, but now it appears the bill may not be debated until after the August recess. The Senate bill provides a larger increase for NIH, $27.98 billion total.

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APA Comments on Homeland Security Bill

While finalizing the details of our Science of Deception Workshop, science policy staff became aware of a Senate bill entitled the "Homeland Security Federal Workforce Act" (S.589). Among other things, the bill seeks to strengthen and improve the management of national security, encourage government service in areas of critical national security, and assist government agencies in addressing deficiencies in personnel possessing specialized skills important to national security. The bill also seeks to incorporate the goals and strategies for recruitment and retention for such skilled personnel into the strategic and performance management systems of Federal agencies. Although the bill provides for the award of science fellowships through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it explicitly excludes "social science" from the definition of science in determining which fields of study qualify for the award.

On July 10th, APA joined the Consortium of Social Science Associations in endorsing letters of inquiry to the bill's sponsor, Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and other co-sponsors. We have not yet received any response, but will follow the issue closely as the bill moves closer to a vote on the Senate floor.

Coincidentally, the first round of Undergraduate Scholarships and Graduate Fellowships awarded through the Science and Technology Directorate of DHS will be announced at the end of this month. It remains to be seen how well the social sciences will fair in that competition, but we will report back in a future issue of SPIN.

In a related development, DHS announced the first solicitation for "university-based homeland-security centers," focusing on risk-based modeling to better understand the impact and consequences of terrorism.

View the "Homeland Security Federal Workforce Act" (S.589) [pdf].
View the letter of inquiry to Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) on S. 589.
View the announcement on "university-baed homeland-security centers" from the Department of Homeland Security [pdf].

APA and COSSA Co-Sponsor Congressional Briefing on Educational Performance Gaps

On July 17th, APA co-sponsored a congressional briefing for Hill staffers with the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) entitled, "Enhancing Educational Performance: Social, Motivational and Cultural Factors." Two of the three speakers were APA members - Rebecca Marcon from the University of North Florida and Patricia O'Reilly from the University of Cincinnati. Their presentations highlighted research findings and provided policy or programmatic recommendations for improving student academic performance. Marcon discussed differential factors affecting young children's educational achievement in Washington, D.C. schools, and O'Reilly gave a broad-based talk on the particular needs of young adolescent girls in the educational system. The final speaker, Harvard economist Ronald Ferguson, presented data from his Tripod Project, which focuses on understanding and addressing racial disparities in educational motivation and achievement.

More than 60 people attended the briefing in the House Science Committee hearing room, including staffers from the offices of Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), John Kerry (D-MA), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and Ted Stevens (R-AK); Representatives Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Rick Boucher (D-VA), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Diane Watson (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA); Delegate Donna Christensen (D-VI); federal agencies including the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation; and outside groups including the National Education Association.

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APA Works with CIA and RAND to Hold Science of Deception Workshop

On July 17-18, RAND Corp. and the APA hosted a workshop entitled the "Science of Deception: Integration of Practice and Theory" with generous funding from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The workshop provided an opportunity to bring together individuals with a need to understand and use deception in the service of national defense/security with those who investigate the phenomena and mechanisms of deception. Meeting at RAND headquarters in Arlington, VA, the workshop drew together approximately 40 individuals including research psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists who study various aspects of deception and representatives from the CIA, FBI and Department of Defense with interests in intelligence operations. In addition, representatives from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security were present. Following brief introductions and welcoming remarks from Kevin O'Connell, Director of the Intelligence Policy Center within RAND's National Security Research Division, workshop participants divided into break-out groups to discuss thematic scenarios following a format used in a previous conference on counterterrorism held at the FBI Academy in February 2002.

The scenarios dealt broadly with issues such as embassy walk-in informants, threat assessment, intelligence gathering, and law enforcement interrogation and debriefing. Participants were prompted in advance to think about research issues and practical considerations they wanted the broader group to consider. Across the two days, there were a number of thought-provoking discussions suggesting the need to develop both short-term and long-term research programs on deception. Workshop participants will review transcripts from the meeting toward the goal of developing a more detailed summary suitable for public consumption.

My profound thanks to both Scott Gerwehr, Associate Policy Analyst at RAND, and Susan Brandon, Program Officer for Affect and Biobehavioral Regulation at NIMH, who jointly conceived of this project while Susan was still Senior Scientist here at APA. Special thanks to Kirk Hubbard, Chief of the Research & Analysis Branch, Operational Assessment Division of the CIA, for generous financial support and for recruiting the operational expertise and to RAND for providing conference facilities and other logistical support.

View the thematic scenarios from the workshop.
View the FBI's 2002 report on counterterrorism.

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APA Monitoring Veterans Administration Research Reorganization

In recent months, the Veterans Administration has welcomed a new Chief of Research and Development and faced increased scrutiny from the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the Government Accounting Office regarding human subject protections and research office reorganizations. PPO staff are closely watching the activities of both the new Chief and Members of Congress in order to represent the needs and interests of psychological researchers at the VA.

APA is active in the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research coalition (FOVA), working with other science associations and veterans groups to craft annual funding recommendations for Congress and meeting with Hill staffers regarding the VA research budget. FOVA invited Dr. Nelda Wray, the new VA Chief of R&D, to meet with the coalition in June for a discussion of her decision to "de-fund" some peer-reviewed research projects and her plans to reorganize and revitalize the VA research process. Wray reiterated her strong support for the peer review process, but also noted that grant seekers will have to show strong evidence of not only scientific merit but previous publishing prowess as she moves to incorporate new standards for peer review panels to consider. Wray's focus will be on more successfully and quickly getting bench research through the translational stage to implementation within the VA system. Her management recommendations include adding science advisors in the field and program managers similar to those at NIH and NSF, markedly increasing funding for and mentoring of young scientists, and developing clinical research centers of excellence and centers for the study of organizational and leadership issues. APA plans to bring in a group of VA psychologists to meet with Dr. Wray early in the fall.

On Capitol Hill, VA research is a hot legislative topic. Two subcommittees of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN), and the Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT) have held hearings this summer on human subjects and research protections within the VA. The hearings arose in the context of a VA research "stand down" this spring (the result of research misconduct allegations), a planned reorganization of the VA Office of Research Oversight (to replace the defunct Office of Research Compliance and Assurance), and renewed attention to "credentialling" of federal research employees (basically background checks mandated by federal law) and accreditation of IRBs. Rep. Buyer has introduced a bill (H.R. 1585) to "ensure the ethical treatment and safety of research subjects" and grant the Office of Research Oversight more independence within the VA. APA will continue to keep our members apprised of new merit review criteria and revised research goals at the VA, as well as congressional oversight activities.

View the text of H.R. 1585 [pdf].

APA Pays Visit to NICHD Director Duane Alexander

On July 24th, APA CEO Norman Anderson, Science Directorate Associate Director Merry Bullock, and PPO staff Karen Studwell met with Duane Alexander, MD, Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to discuss the behavioral research portfolio at NICHD and some NIH issues that have recently been of concern to APA. Dr. Alexander first thanked APA and its members for their advocacy efforts to defeat the amendment offered in the House of Representatives that would have removed funding from several NICHD grants involving sexual and demographic research. He indicated that NIH is working on follow up materials to further educate members of Congress about the importance of sexual health research and that NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, MD, has been very supportive of the research as well.

Other items of discussion included the need for greater representation of behavioral science in the NIH Roadmap, which we have reported on in previously in SPIN. Dr. Alexander, who co-chaired the Roadmap working group on the clinical research workforce, indicated that behavioral research training was included into their initiatives. He noted that one new emphasis will be on training broad multidisciplinary research teams. He also said that the working group is working on addressing ways to standardize and streamline federal regulations governing research so that all research comes under a single policy. This will include standardization of required paperwork and example-based guidance to the regulations.

Dr. Alexander encouraged psychological researchers to take advantage of the current friendly climate for research on prevention; in particular, childhood obesity. As physical activity and eating behaviors are directly linked to the rise in obesity, it represents an opportunity for behavioral approaches in multidisciplinary efforts contribute to new knowledge and interventions, targeted directly to children.

View photograph of Dr. Alexander with Norman Anderson and Merry Bullock.

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New NIH Directors to Present at Convention

For those of you headed to Toronto for the convention, there will be a joint session featuring Thomas Insel, MD, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Nora Volkow, PhD, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and T.K. Li, MD, Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The session is scheduled on Friday, August 8th at 10:00 a.m. and being chaired by APA CEO Norman Anderson.

Additional information about the APA Convention.

Any questions?

If you have any questions regarding SPIN or specific science policy issues, please feel free to contact any of APA’s Science PPO staff.

Geoff Mumford, Ph.D.,, Director of Science Policy

Pat Kobor, Senior Science Policy Analyst

Heather O'Beirne Kelly, Ph.D., Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer

Karen Studwell, J.D., Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer

Sara Robinson, Legislative Assistant


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