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 ( of APA’s Science Government Relations Office.