FOOTNOTES
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Public Affairs Update

  • Congressional threat to peer review of NIH-supported behavioral and social research: An update . . . . In July, a handful of members in the U.S. House of Representatives publicly questioned the appropriateness of several studies on human sexuality supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during debate over the NIH appropriations bill. (See VANTAGE POINT in the September/October 2003 Footnotes for details.) These members of congress were, in effect, challenging the integrity of the peer review system. ASA Council subsequently authorized ASA Executive Office efforts to defend NIH supported research in this domain, and among other activities, ASA released a public statement (see www.asanet.org/media/NIH_peer-rev.html) in support of NIH. In October, the threat continued when the NIH Director was questioned about ten specific grants during a hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. NIH representatives asked the Committee for a complete list of these grants and were accidentally given an unauthorized list of nearly 160 researchers studying HIV transmission, drug abuse, and sexual behavior. This unofficial list had apparently originated with a conservative religious group called the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), which had provided it to Republican members of the committee. NIH officials believed these 160 studies would be the subject of congressional investigation. The Committee claimed it never intended to scrutinize these 160 researchers, and instead had intended to give NIH only the list of ten studies. In fact, conservatives have now begun to distance themselves from the TVC, which has become somewhat discredited for unrelated activities and has been expelled from the Values Action Team congressional working group. Many of the researchers on the 160 “hit list” have become fearful that their research could continue to attract undue attention and perhaps even be at risk, since NIH had contacted all of these researchers out of courtesy to alert them to potential congressional scrutiny. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), who has begun a serious effort to monitor the influence of politics on science, has reported on this NIH episode on his Politics & Science website (www.house.gov/reform/min/politicsandscience) and has written to the director of the Department of Health and Human Services protesting this latest round of what he characterizes as “scientific McCarthyism.” ASA’s statement of support for NIH peer review is posted on this site. These challenges could rise again during congressional hearings in 2004 on NIH re-authorization legislation.

  • IH is establishing an agency-wide working group on basic social and behavioral science chaired by sociologist . . . . Under the leadership of the NIH Director’s Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (OBSSR), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is forming an NIH-wide Working Group of extramural researchers tasked with assessing the role of basic social and behavioral science across NIH institutes. This Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director is chaired by sociologist Linda Waite, Lucy Flower Professor in Urban Sociology, at the University of Chicago. ASA and other social science organizations have assisted NIH in the formation of the group. The group will provide advice to NIH Director Elias Zerhouni about the social and behavioral science research portfolio, in part to respond to repeated congressional efforts to nudge the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to include serious support for these sciences in its portfolio. Independently, the National Advisory Mental Health Council also recently established a working group to examine the priority-setting principles underlying its portfolio of basic behavioral, social, cognitive, and biological sciences. Sociologist and OBSSR Acting Director Virginia Cain is the liaison between the NIH and the NIMH working groups.

  • SF’s Sociology Program completes another rotation . . . . It seems like only yesterday (see November 2002 Footnotes, p. 3) that we announced sociologist Joane Nagel joining the Sociology Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a one-year position as an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) “rotator” to help manage and oversee sociology grant proposals. Well, Joane has now completed her exciting NSF term and will be returning to her home institution, the University of Kansas. Meanwhile, NSF’s Division of Social and Economic Sciences is seeking a Program Director to fill her spot. The Program Director, along with co-Program Director Patricia White, manage the Sociology Program, encourage proposal submissions, manage the review of proposals submitted to NSF, chair meetings of the Sociology Advisory Panel, recommend and document actions on proposals reviewed, deal grant administration, maintain contact with the research community, and provide advice and consultation. The position also entails working with directors of other NSF programs and divisions in developing new initiatives and representing the agency at professional meetings. The appointment will begin in August 2004 and will be filled as a Visiting Scientist Appointment, Temporary Appointment under the Excepted Authority of the NSF Act, or IPA assignment for a period of one or two years. Applicants must have a PhD or equivalent in sociology and six or more years of research experience beyond the doctorate. Applicants should also be able to show evidence of initiative, administrative skills, and ability to work well with others. The range of annual salary, which includes a locality pay adjustment, is $81,602-$127,168, depending on qualifications and experience. More information about the position is available from Patricia White (pwhite@nsf.gov, tel. (703) 292-8762) and from Richard Lempert, Director of the Division of Social and Economic Sciences (rlempert@nsf.gov, tel. (703) 292-8760). Information about the Sociology Program can be found at www.nsf.gov/sbe/ses/sociol. Applicants should send a letter of interest, CV, and names and addresses of at least three references to: Sociology Program, c/o Program Assistant, Karen Duke, Room 995, Division of Social and Economic Sciences, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22230. Hearing impaired individuals should call TDD at (703) 292-8044.