FOOTNOTES
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Public Affairs Update

  • Comprehensive data on firearms/violence needed for policy . . . Current research and data on firearms, violent crime, and suicide are insufficient to support strong conclusions about the effects of various measures to prevent and control gun violence, says a new report from the National Academies’ National Research Council. A comprehensive research program on firearms is needed as a basis for criminal justice and public health policy. The researchers on the Committee to Improve Research Information and Data on Firearms, which included three sociologists (Robert Crutchfield, University of Washington; Richard Rosenfeld, University of Missouri; and Christopher Winship, Harvard University) suggest that a comprehensive research program on firearms is needed in order for criminal justice and crime prevention to have a sound basis. More information and copies of the report, Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review, are available from the National Academies Press at www.nationalacademies.org/topnews?#tn1216b.

  • National Science Foundation (NSF) to focus on number of grants . . . . at least when it comes to the amount NSF awards grantees. Faced with a 3 percent budget cut in FY 2005, and a mere 2.4 percent increase in FY 2006, NSF intends to concentrate less on the amount or duration of grants and more on increasing the number of meritorious proposals it funds in its next two or three budget cycles, said newly appointed Director Arden Bement. Bement hopes that the NSF will continue to grow but knows it will not do so “at the rate expected under the Investing in America’s Future Act of 2002,” which authorized a doubling of NSF appropriations from fiscal year (FY) 2003 through FY 2005. In FY 2004, the average NSF grant was $140,000 for a duration of just less than three years. In a January interview, Bement said he would meet funding constraints by asking each NSF directorate to assess and “refocus resources on the frontier and beyond,” with an emphasis on transformational research. His goal for the NSF is to build a more competent workforce and focus on education and to become more mission-oriented. “Anything we can do to link our university research programs to the challenges facing the nation will enhance our chances for budget success.

  • NIH is dedicated to advancing first-time investigators . . . . . The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Office of Extramural Research has established a new website specifically aimed at assisting new investigators. The website, “Resources for New Investigators,” provides links to a large range of useful information to facilitate grant applications, including tips on preparing applications. NIH’s interest in the training and research funding of new investigators is understandably deep and longstanding. Over the years, special programs to assist new investigators in obtaining independent research funding have been created. While intended for new investigators, seasoned investigators will also find much of value in these resources, such as help with the application process, NIH policies and procedures, and data on new investigators. See grants.nih.gov/grants/new_investigators/index.ht.

  • National Academies report on progress toward alternative measures of poverty . . . . The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies released a report, Experimental Poverty Measures: Summary of a Workshop, summarizing discussions from a June 2004 National Academies workshop. The workshop reviewed federal research on alternative methods for measuring poverty, to obtain feedback from the scientific community as to which components of alternative measures are methodologically sound, and to see which of those might need further refinement. In 1995, the National Academies issued the report, Measuring Poverty: A New Approach, which called for moving toward a new measure of poverty. The methods used to produce these alternatives, however, have changed from year to year, so that there are no consistent time series of alternative poverty statistics. The recent sessions were devoted to the reference family poverty threshold; equivalence scales; geographic adjustments to thresholds; medical out-of-pocket expenses; work-related expenses including child-care; and incorporating the value of housing; and data issues. Read the report online at www.nap.edu/catalog/11166.html.

  • U.S.-born Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic Whites are at increased risk for psychiatric disorders . . . . According to the results of a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) study, Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic Whites born in the United States have a higher risk for developing psychiatric disorders than their foreign-born counterparts who have immigrated to the United States. In this study, psychiatric disorders include: alcohol and drug use disorders, major depression, dysthymia, mania, hypomania, panic disorder, social and specific phobia, and general anxiety disorder. Based on the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, the analysis is the first to consider immigration status in conjunction with psychiatric morbidity in these groups. Earlier studies compared psychiatric disorder rates among U.S.- and foreign-born Mexican Americans to either rates for U.S.-born non-Hispanic Whites or rates for the entire U.S. population, thereby confounding immigration status and ethnicity. The study is reported in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. A full text copy of the report is available at www.archgenpsychiatry.com.


    Sociology in Action on the Hill. . .

    Eastern Michigan University sociologist Mansoor Moaddel (right) met in January with minority and majority staff of the U.S. House Committee on International Relations to discuss his recent National Science Foundation funded research on public attitudes and world views of Middle Easterners. Pictured with him (clockwise) are senior legislative staff Gregg Rickman, David Abramowitz, Hillel Weinberg, Sam Stratman, and Renée Austell. Moaddel met with other national policymakers in Washington, as well. (See  p. 1 of the November 2004 Footnotes for information on this timely research.)