GEARing up to focus on applied research

Psychologists can submit ideas for enhancing effectiveness of federal government.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently released a Request for Information (RFI) to gather input to be used in establishing a Government Effectiveness Advanced Research (GEAR) Center.  It appears to be a ripe opportunity for applying psychological science to improve the functioning of the federal government.  As described in the RFI overview: “This non-governmental, public-private partnership would address operational and strategic challenges facing the Federal Government, both now and into the future, by engaging researchers, academics, non-profits, and private industry across an array of disciplines, such as data science, organizational behavior, and user-centered design.”

The RFI seeks responses to a set of eight questions in three sections: (1) Informing the GEAR Center, (2) Establishing the GEAR Center, and (3) Anticipated Early Focus Areas.  In the first two sections, the RFI aims to learn from examples of other successful partnerships that could inform the design and operation of the Center.

In the third, the focus is on reskilling/upskilling the federal workforce and leveraging federally owned data. As one example, the RFI specifically asks: “What approaches could be piloted for possible application and scalability across the Federal sector in various learning domains (e.g., cognitive, affective, behavioral) – such as gamification, use of massively open on-line courses (MOOCs), apprenticeship models, and other new approaches?”

Scaling up psychological research is not a new idea.  In 2015, the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team was formed as a subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council to do just that.  Psychologist Matthew Johnson of Binghamton University was the American Psychological Association’s Executive Branch Science Fellow that year.  He was placed in the Department of Justice where he worked with the SBST to advance the Obama administration’s interest in bringing more data and science to bear on issues of policing.  The SBST produced two annual reports highlighting its achievements in 2015 and 2016 but was disbanded in the transition to the current administration.

And while concerns have been raised about how the current administration views science, this RFI and the recent nomination of a highly regarded meteorologist, Kelvin Droegemeier, to direct the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy may herald a change in attitude. 

To further explain and discuss the GEAR Center, OMB is hosting a virtual conference on August 23, 2018, from 1:30-3:00 Eastern.  OMB invites the public to submit questions in advance to help inform the question-and-answer period at the conference. 

APA plans to submit a formal response to the RFI by the September 14 deadline and is eager to include your ideas. For further information or to provide input to APA’s response to the RFI, contact Steve Newell (snewell@apa.org) of APA’s Science Government Relations Office.

Flexibility announced regarding NIH clinical trials policy

Enforcement will be delayed until September 24, 2019, but issues remain.

The National Institutes of Health announced, in a notice in the NIH Guide, a series of “interim policy flexibilities” for some basic research studies that have recently been subsumed under the expanded reporting and registration requirements for clinical trials. From now until September 24, 2019, NIH will reassess its approach to registration and results reporting for prospective basic science studies involving human participants while delaying enforcement.

NIH will delay enforcement of its policy, published in the Federal Register on September 21, 2016, that defines a clinical trial as any research with human participants not excluded by separately listed cases, and establishes the expectation that investigators will register and report their studies in ClinicalTrials.gov. NIH will continue to expect registration and reporting for all human studies but allow reporting on existing basic science portals in addition to ClinicalTrials.gov.

NIH continues to expect Good Clinical Practice training, in accordance with NOT-OD-16-148, for all personnel involved in the conduct, oversight, or management of prospective basic science studies involving human participants during this interim period.  There are free and short-duration training modules available, including one targeted towards behavioral research offered by the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.

The American Psychological Association has worked closely with sister scientific organizations including the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences to encourage NIH to reconsider its requirements that represent a significant burden to scientists who conduct basic research with human participants. As reported in Science, these organizations are continuing to push for basic science to be excluded from the definition of clinical trials.

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Bill provides increases to NIH, cuts CDC and HRSA

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