FOOTNOTES
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Public Affairs Update

  • Improving the release and reporting of current economic statistics . . . . The Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics (COPAFS) and the National Association for Business Economics hosted a December panel discussion in Washington, DC, for members of federal agencies and the media on the state of current economic statistics. While representatives from the Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and Bureau of Labor Statistics felt that the availability of data on their websites represents a major enhancement in providing the media with timely access to economic statistics, they outlined improvements that could be made. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau’s Frederick Knickerbocker, Associate Director for Economic Programs, pointed to the need for more timely economic statistics and more coverage on service sector activity and that the Census Bureau is developing a new quarterly survey to focus on such activity. Steven Landefeld, Director of the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), said BEA is working to improve the reporting of economic statistics by collaborating with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Reserve Board to reconcile differences across data products released by these agencies. Michael McKee, International Economics Editor of Bloomberg News, felt that the media could be even better served by the websites if there was an integrated Department of Commerce website that would direct people where to go for particular economic data. He also suggested that federal agencies should coordinate the release dates of their statistics. Federal Reserve reporter John Berry of the Washington Post called for federal agencies to provide more dynamic economic statistics. For example, although monthly unemployment figures provide data regularly, these statistics are snapshots at only one point in time.

  • National Human Genome Project launches social and behavioral research branch . . . . The National Institutes of Health, National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has formed a new branch, the Social and Behavioral Research Branch (SBRB), within its Division of Intramural Research (DIR). The new branch will develop cutting-edge approaches to translating discoveries from the recently completed Human Genome Project into interventions for health promotion and disease prevention, and for counseling patients and families dealing with the impact of devastating genetic disorders. The SBRB also will investigate the complex social, ethical, and public policy impact of genomic research. NHGRI recruited a prominent behavioral epidemiologist from Duke University, Colleen McBride, to head SBRB. According to McBride, the SBRB’s research will encompass four conceptual domains: Testing communications strategies aimed at relaying an individual’s risk for developing a genetic condition; developing and evaluating interventions aimed at reducing genetically susceptible individuals’ risk of acquiring a disease; translating genomic discoveries to clinical practice; and understanding the social, ethical, and policy implications of genomic research. In addition, McBride also will spearhead the development of a trans-institute Social & Behavioral Science Center (SBSC) within NIH. The SBSC will be designed to hasten the progress of behavioral and social science research among participating NIH intramural research programs. Additional information about NHGRI can be found at www.genome.gov. To access information about NHGRI’s new SBRB see www.genome.gov/11508936.

  • New “one-stop-shopping” for federal grants and application information . . . . In December, Health and Human Service (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson unveiled the Grants.gov website, which provides a single gateway to comprehensive information about identifying and applying for all federal grant programs. The website (www.grants.gov) makes it possible for organizations to efficiently learn about and apply for federal grants. It is a part of President Bush’s government-wide Electronic Government (E-Gov) Initiative. The White House Office of Management and Budget named HHS the lead agency for this initiative. The website has information about more than 800 grant programs involving all 26 federal grant-making agencies. These agencies together award more than $360 billion in funds. The site provides information in a standardized format across agencies and includes a “Find Grant Opportunities” feature and an “Apply for Grants” component that simplifies the application process by allowing applicants to download, complete, and submit applications for specific grant opportunities from any federal grant-making agency. To date, application packages for five agencies (the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Justice, and HHS) have been posted. This section will be expanded in coming months as more federal agencies post information about grant opportunities. Grants.gov is a collaborative effort of HHS and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, and Transportation, as well as the National Science Foundation.

  • NIH “roadmap” news as it relates to behavioral sciences . . . The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) major agency-wide initiative, called the Roadmap (see November 2003 Footnotes, p. 2), identifies major opportunities and gaps in health research that no single NIH institute could tackle meaningfully alone but that NIH as a whole must address to make the biggest impact on the progress of health research. A series of funding initiatives will be issued in Fiscal Year 2004 and beyond that seek research to fill these gaps. Some of the initiatives, such as just-released training and supplement grants, will focus on the behavioral and social sciences. Generally, if the initiative calls for behavioral science, social science is included also. Sociologists should take advantage of these funding opportunities. A description of the NIH Roadmap, NIH Roadmap initiatives, grants and funding opportunities can be found at nihroadmap.nih.gov/.