FOOTNOTES
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Public Affairs Update

  • Can these freshmen congresswomen relate to us? . . . Sleuthing Footnotes reporters have discovered that at least two new members of the 109th U.S. House of Representatives have a degree in sociology. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) has an MACT in sociology, as well as a doctorate in education. And, Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) has an undergraduate degree in sociology and political science. If the “all politics is local” mantra holds true for “intellectual localities,” maybe sociology has a foot in the door. Footnotes will keep you posted on their committee assignments, and other information as it becomes available.

  • Linguist chosen to direct NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate . . . . Linguistic scientist David Lightfoot was named by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to head its Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE). He begins in his new position June 1, 2005. Lightfoot, the current Dean of the Graduate School for Arts and Sciences at Georgetown University and professor in the Department of Linguistics, will oversee NSF’s $197-million annual investments in fields such as sociology, anthropology, psychology, cognitive science, political science, linguistics, risk management, and economics. He replaces Norman Bradburn, who left NSF in March 2004. Until Lightfoot’s arrival, Wanda Ward will continue to serve as Acting Assistant Director for SBE. As the Dean at Georgetown University, Lightfoot promoted research collaborations in cognition and neuroscience, population health, statistics and computing, among other initiatives. He has authored 10 books and several dozen scholarly papers on the origin, acquisition, development, and historical evolution of language. He earned his BA from the University of London, King’s College, and his MA and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan.

  • White House releases report on behavioral science and terrorism . . . The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), a presidential cabinet-level council that coordinates science and technology policies across the federal government, released the report Combating Terrorism: Research Priorities in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. The report, about four years in the making, describes the powerful tools and strategies offered by the social and behavioral sciences to respond to the threats of terrorists. Produced by the Subcommittee on Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, this is the first NSTC report on the role of the social and behavioral sciences (including sociology, psychology, anthropology, geography, linguistics, statistics, and data mining) in helping the American public and its leaders to understand the causes of terrorism and how to counter terrorism. The report focuses on how these sciences can help us to predict, prevent, prepare for, and recover from a terrorist attack or ongoing terrorists’ threats and describes the resources that the social, behavioral, and economic sciences contribute to creating and maintaining effective anti-terrorism strategies. These sciences help understand the origins of terrorism and address how we can prepare for terrorist incidents. For more information or to read the report, see www.ostp.gov/nstc/html/terror.pdf.

  • Federal alphabet soup update: Simpler forms for human research approved . . . . The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new simplified mechanism for all research institutions that receive HHS funding or support to obtain an assurance of compliance with HHS regulations for the protection of human subjects. A single web-based “Federalwide Assurance” (FWA) will replace the several types of assurances under which research institutions had operated in the past. The Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) announced approval of the revised FWA forms and related documents and the institutional review board/independent ethics committee (IRB/IEC) registration form last month. These changes go into effect immediately. The FWA will be the only type of assurance accepted for review and approval by OHRP. For any institution currently holding an OHRP-approved FWA, the revised Terms of Assurance will go into effect with the next update/renewal of its FWA. Institutions currently holding an OHRP-approved Multiple Project Assurance (MPA) or Cooperative Project Assurance (CPA) are required to submit an FWA to OHRP for approval by December 31, 2005, if the institution is required to have an OHRP-approved assurance of compliance. The newly approved documents are posted on the OHRP website at www.dhhs.gov/ohrp. OHRP’s assurances webpage can be viewed at www.hhs.gov/ohrp/assurances/assurances_index.html.

  • New tool to help social scientists measure nation’s well-being . . . . An interdisciplinary team of psychologists and economists developed a new research tool to help social scientists more accurately measure how well individuals and society are faring. The tool, called the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM), offers a new way to characterize the daily life experience of individuals, providing a measure that could be used in assessing social interventions, including clinical trials. The DRM developer’s intention is to make available a method to calculate a “National Well-being Account,” to provide a broad measure of well-being of people of all ages, similar to the measure of the Gross Domestic Product. DRM assesses how people spend their time and how they feel about, or experience, activities throughout a given day. DRM uses self-reported ratings of the psychological and social aspects of a number of daily activities to measure well-being and quality of life. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) recently awarded the team that developed the DRM a grant to pursue further study of measures of well-being. NIA and private foundations jointly supported the development of the DRM. More details are available at www.nih.gov/news/pr/dec2004/nia-02.htm.