FOOTNOTES
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Public Affairs Update

  • Colwell leaves National Science Foundation . . . . . National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Rita R. Colwell assumed the position of Chairman of Canon U.S. Life Sciences, Inc., upon her retirement from the NSF, effective February 21, 2004. Canon U.S. Life Sciences is a newly created, Washington-based subsidiary of Canon U.S.A., Inc., whose goal is to identify and develop life-science solutions with potential applications in diagnostics and medical instrumentation. Arden Bement, Director of the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), will take over as interim director. During Colwell’s nearly six-year term, NSF received the highest achievement ratings of any federal agency in performance on the President’s Management Agenda and was named a “model” agency by the White House. Colwell initiated programs to increase NSF’s investment in mathematics and to integrate mathematics with the life and social sciences, urged and obtained substantial increases in graduate-student stipends, and called for expanded opportunities for minorities and women in the nation’s science and engineering communities.

  • Sociologist Waite chairs NIH-wide basic behavioral/social science working group . . . . . Three sociologists are among the newly appointed 13 members of the basic science working group of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee, which will advise NIH Director Elias Zerhouni. Sociologist Linda Waite, University of Chicago, will chair the group, which includes sociologist James Jackson, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; and sociologist David Takeuchi, University of Washington. The new working group also includes physicians, research psychologists, and others: Richard Axel, Columbia University; Maja Bucan, University of Pennsylvania; Laura Carstensen, Stanford University; Richard Davidson; University of Wisconsin-Madison; Susan Fiske, Princeton University; William Greenough, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign; Frances Horowitz, City University of New York; Robert Levenson, University of California-Berkely; Bruce McEwen, Rockefeller University; Jane Menken, University of Colorado-Boulder; and James Smith, RAND Corporation. Sociologist Virginia Cain, Acting Director of the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (OBSSR), will serve as the NIH liaison. The group’s official charge is to examine NIH’s support for research in the behavioral and social sciences that is fundamental to the prevention, treatment, and cure of illnesses, but which is not directed at specific diseases/disorders. The group’s work will include a review of NIH’s current basic behavioral and social science research portfolio, identification of areas of opportunity, and examination of barriers in the grant submission and peer review process. The working group will develop and provide recommendations to the Advisory Committee to the Director by fall of 2004.

  • National Advisory Mental Health Council . . . . met in early February and welcomed sociologist Peter Salovey, Yale University, as a new Council member. Top on the list of issues for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the coming year is the impact of dwindling funding increases projected for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NIMH. The final FY04 budget resulted in a 3.1% increase for NIMH, and the Bush Administration proposed a mere 2.7% increase for NIH in FY05. Faced with tightening budgets, NIMH Director Tom Insel anticipates that the NIMH payline (i.e., the cutoff level at which competitive grant proposals receive funding) will likely drop from 20% to 18% in the near future.

  • New NIMH branch to focus on aging . . . . The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) announced in February that it was creating two new branches within the Division of Services and Intervention Research. Barry Lebowitz, who will also head the NIMH-wide Aging Consortium, will lead the new Aging Treatment and Preventative Interventions Research Branch. Acting Director Matthew Rudorfer will lead the new Adult Treatment and Preventative Interventions Branch until a permanent director is found. The creation of a new aging branch was just one recommendation from the NIMH Council Report, Mental Health for a Lifetime: Research for the Mental Health Needs of Older Americans. To read the NIMH Council Report, see www.nimh.nih.gov/council/agingreport.pdf.

  • Ethical, Legal & Social Implications Program (ELSI) of genetics institute . . . . The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) hired research psychologist and medical geneticist and counselor Vivian Ota Wang as a new ELSI program director. Her research and clinical interests are in the areas of racial attitudes and multicultural genetics education and training. NHGRI is part of the National Institutes of Health and houses the ELSI program, where Wang will focus on complex traits, behavioral, and community research. [See other recent NHGRI news in the January 2004 Footnotes, p.3 or at www.asanet.org/footnotes/jan04/pubaffairs.html.] Wang joins ELSI from the Vanderbilt University’s Center for Genetics and Health Policy, where she held joint appointments in the Departments of Pediatrics at the School of Medicine and Human and Organizational Development at Peabody College.

  • New, expanded release of data on health insurance coverage . . . . At the end of January, the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), released a new report, entitled Health Insurance Coverage: Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January-June 2003. The report is important because it presents on a routine basis—for the first time anywhere—three key measures of health insurance coverage. The CDC uses different time frames to measure coverage (more precisely, lack of coverage) in order to reflect different policy-relevant perspectives. The measures include a current lack of coverage, the estimate of persons who were uninsured at any time in the past year, and the measure of lack of coverage for more than one year. Estimates of persons with private and public coverage by poverty status are also presented. The report is part of the “Early Release” of quarterly data on health insurance coverage and other selected health measures from our National Health Interview Survey and can be found on the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/nchs.