Taking stock of science on the third anniversary of "Innovation: An American Imperative"

Progress report identifies successes and challenges for U.S. science infrastructure.

June 23, 2018, marks the third anniversary of the call to action from Innovation: An American Imperative, a coalition of more than 500 organizations, including the American Psychological Association, in science, engineering, higher education, and industry.  The call urged Congress to increase federal investment and enact policies aimed at stimulating innovation and scientific progress.

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House and Senate Appropriations Committees approve NSF funding bills for FY19

Bills provide funding boosts for NSF research

As the fiscal year 2019 (FY19) appropriations process continues, lawmakers continue their work towards passage of the twelve appropriations bills necessary to fund the federal government. In line with the increased budget caps for discretionary spending allowed by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, lawmakers have additional flexibility in FY19 appropriations.  

From the House Committee on Appropriations, the National Science Foundation (NSF) was allocated $8.2 billion, which is $408 million (5.2%) above the FY18 enacted level and $704 million (9.4%) above the President’s Budget request. Research and related activities are funded at $6.7 billion, $317 million (5%) above the current level ($6.3 billion). According to language accompanying the bill, Members specified that such funding is aimed at “fostering innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education.”

Accompanying language also reiterates Members’ desire to see abstracts convey the broader impacts of the funded research to inexpert audiences, an ongoing priority for many House members. Further, the report language emphasizes that abstracts should address potential benefits of the research to national priorities, such as increasing economic competitiveness, advancing the health and welfare of the American public, or supporting the national defense.

From the Senate Committee on Appropriations, NSF was allocated 8.1 billion, or $301 million (3.9%) above the FY18 enacted level and $597 million (8%) above the President’s Budget request. Research and related activities are funded at $6.6 billion, $222 million (3.5%) above the current level ($6.3 billion). According to language accompanying the bill, this funding “will allow NSF to provide more grants to highly competitive research projects and help provide opportunities to prepare the next generation of STEM leaders.”

Importantly, the Senate bill also clarifies that funding for the 10 Big Ideas -- NSF’s long-term research initiatives focused on addressing vital national priorities and promoting interdisciplinary work, increasingly framed as “convergence” -- should not take funding from NSF’s existing core programmatic research. Appropriators specify that “NSF shall maintain its core research at levels not less than those provided in fiscal year 2017. Additional funds provided for fiscal year 2019 are more than adequate to continue basic research and allow NSF to position the United States to continue as a global science and engineering leader using the 10 Big Ideas framework.”

In both the House and Senate bills, the National Science Board, the National Science Foundation’s governing body and an independent adviser to the President and Congress on science policy, is allocated $4.4 million, the same as the FY18 enacted level and $50,000 above the President’s Budget request.

The next step for each bill is a floor vote from each chamber. If each bill passes its relevant chamber, members from each chamber will work on a conference bill merging the priorities from each. Given the strong support for NSF from each chamber of Congress in response to science community advocacy and increased fiscal flexibility, NSF is well-positioned to see significant increases in research funding which will result in increased grant opportunities for investigators under both existing and new funding opportunities from NSF.  

During this process, government relations staff of the American Psychological Association continue to communicate frequently with lawmakers and their staff to convey the importance of NSF funding, particularly for the essential basic research being done by academic psychologists across the nation seeking to further our fundamental knowledge of human behavior.

For more information on APA’s advocacy for NSF funding, please contact Steve Newell of APA’s Science Government Relations Office.

Diminishing Returns: Making the case for nicotine reduction to curb tobacco use

APA, CPDD, and SRNT offer scientific feedback on FDA proposal

The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products. The act authorizes the FDA to adopt a tobacco product standard if the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) finds that the standard is appropriate for the protection of the public health.

In making such a finding, the HHS Secretary must consider scientific evidence concerning: “(1) The risks and benefits of the proposed standard to the population as a whole, including users and nonusers of tobacco products; (2) the increased or decreased likelihood that existing users of tobacco products will stop using such products; and (3) the increased or decreased likelihood that those who do not use tobacco products will start using such products.”

Following that process, the FDA  issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) in March 2018 to “. . .obtain information for consideration in developing a tobacco product standard to set the maximum nicotine level for cigarettes. Because tobacco-related harms ultimately result from addiction to the nicotine in such products, causing repeated use and exposure to toxicants, FDA is considering taking this action to reduce the level of nicotine in these products, so they are minimally addictive or nonaddictive, using the best available science to determine a level that is appropriate for the protection of the public health.”

Although the Tobacco Control Act prohibits the FDA from issuing a regulation that would require the reduction of nicotine yields of a tobacco product to zero, it can issue a potential product standard that would set a maximum nicotine level for cigarettes, and restrictions prohibiting the sale and distribution of any product that violates such a standard.

Three organizations – the American Psychological Association (APA), the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, and the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco – have issued a joint statement providing detailed comments on the ANPRM.  Organized as a set of thirteen key points, the document provides a scientific rationale for reduced nicotine tobacco products as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce tobacco-associated morbidity and mortality. Psychologist Dorothy Hatsukami, of the University of Minnesota, who is a leading researcher on nicotine addiction and has had prominent roles in all three organizations, led the development of the statement.  

The ANPRM is the first step in a long process through which the FDA gathers public input for use in making regulatory decisions.  APA will continue to monitor the FDA’s regulatory activities involving tobacco products. For more information on APA’s involvement in tobacco control efforts, contact Geoff Mumford of APA’s Science Government Relations Office.

House subcommittee forwards Health, Education funding bill for fiscal year 2019

Bill provides increases to NIH, cuts CDC and HRSA

On June 15, 2018, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education marked up the FY 2019 funding bill. The legislation includes funding for programs within the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and other related agencies, including the Social Security Administration.

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Social psychologist presents research on Capitol Hill

Kate Sweeny of UC Riverside shares her work on how waiting and worrying affect health and wellbeing.

On May 9, 2018, the American Psychological Association (APA) participated in the 24th Annual Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) Exhibition on Capitol Hill as part of an all-day event aimed at increasing congressional awareness of the importance of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the research the agency supports – including basic behavioral and social science. To convey the impact and policy relevance of psychological research, APA sponsored a visit by Kate Sweeny, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, whose NSF-funded work examines the effects of waiting and uncertainty on health and wellbeing. 

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