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. 

Read our interview with Kate Sweeny to learn more about her research and advocacy.

During the day, Sweeny and APA staff met with the offices of Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) as well as Representatives Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), and Mark Takano (D-CA) to describe her work and its significance.

Sweeny led the lawmakers and their staffs through her research with patients, law school graduates, and others experiencing uncertainty waiting for news or results, and how this experience gets “under the skin” to disrupt health, including sleep and immunity.  She went on to explain how small improvements in communications between patients and healthcare providers and in health information technology could reduce these health effects.  The universal experience of waiting connected with the lawmakers, all of whom could quickly identify a time when they’ve experienced that particular kind of stress.

 Kate Sweeny at the office of Representative Mark Takano (D-CA)

Kate Sweeny at the office of Representative Mark Takano (D-CA)

That evening, Sweeny joined 32 interdisciplinary exhibitors at the Exhibition to discuss her research with federal officials, including Representatives James Comer (R-KY) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), and Fay Cook, Assistant Director of the NSF Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences. 

Among the topics that came up was Sweeny’s research on the impacts of waiting to hear news about immigration status among “Dreamers” who are in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.  Her work reinforced the need to find a permanent legislative solution for the Dreamers.  (See the APA statement on Dream Act for more information.)

Congressional outreach, like Sweeny’s, is essential for communicating psychological research to policymakers and promoting development of psychologically-informed, evidence-based policy. Sweeny’s stories, alongside those of other science advocates at APA and throughout the scientific community, detailing how investments in NSF support her research, fund her graduate students, and help accelerate scientific progress are one of the factors underlying NSF’s recent budget increases from $7.5 billion in fiscal year 2017, to $7.8 billion in fiscal year 2018, to a proposed $8.2 billion in fiscal year 2019.

 Kate Sweeny discussing her research with Representative James Comer (R-KY)

Kate Sweeny discussing her research with Representative James Comer (R-KY)

  Kate Sweeny and Fay Cook, Assistant Director of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences

 Kate Sweeny and Fay Cook, Assistant Director of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences

 Kate Sweeny with Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ)

Kate Sweeny with Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ)

Please contact Steve Newell of APA’s Science Government Relations Office for more information about this event and APA’s advocacy for NSF.