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Public Affairs Update

  • NSF’s “science of science policy” research initiative announced . . . . The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) announces its long-awaited opportunity for the social sciences to receive research funding (see December 2005 Footnotes, "Indicators for a New 'Social Science of Science Policy'" (Vantage Point)) to foster the development of the knowledge, theories, data, tools, and human capital needed to cultivate a new Science of Science and Innovation Policy (SciSIP). SciSIP will underwrite fundamental research that creates new explanatory models and analytic tools designed to inform the nation’s public and private sectors about the processes through which investments in science and engineering (S&E) research are transformed into social and economic outcomes. SciSIP’s goals are to understand the contexts, structures, and processes of S&E research, to evaluate reliably the tangible and intangible returns from investments in research and development (R&D) and to predict the likely returns from future R&D investments within tolerable margins of error and with attention to the full spectrum of potential consequences. Characterizing the dynamics of discovery and innovation is important for developing valid metrics, for predicting future returns on investments, for constructing fruitful policies, and for developing new forms of workforce education and training. For information on SciSIP, contact: Kaye Husbands Fealing, Science Advisor, Science of Science and Innovation Policy, Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, 907 N, (703) 292-7267, khusband@nsf.gov. Applications are due May 22. The full announcement is at: www.nsf.gov/pubs/2007/nsf07547/nsf07547.htm.

  • Social science research informs the House Ways and Means Committee about the consequences of Poverty . . . . In late January, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on poverty in America. The session focused on two reports that synthesized an enormous amount of social science research. The first, Poverty in America: Consequences for Individuals and the Economy, produced by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), described the current state of the research without policy solutions. The report is available at www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-343T. The second, The Economic Costs of Poverty in the United States, released by the Center for American Progress (CAP), was authored by a number of researchers, including sociologist Greg Duncan of Northwestern University. The report is available at www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/01/poverty_report.html. The GAO report described the increased risk of adverse outcomes faced by the 37 million people (approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population) living below the poverty level in 2005. The CAP report reviews studies that estimate the statistical relationships between children growing up in poverty and their earnings, propensity to commit crime, and quality of health later in life. It recommends universal pre-kindergarten programs; expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit; job training for poor adults; higher minimum-wage and more collective bargaining; low income neighborhood revitalization and housing mobility; and marriage promotion and faith-based initiatives.

  • NIH focuses on helping the elderly with depression . . . . The NIHSeniorHealth website www.NIHSeniorHealth.gov has added depression to its list of health topics of interest to older adults. This senior-friendly medical website is a joint effort of the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine, which are part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIHSeniorHealth content is based on the latest research on cognition and aging. About two million Americans age 65 or older suffer from major depression, and another five million suffer from less severe forms of the illness. “Although depression is common among older adults, it is not a normal part of aging,” says Thomas R. Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which developed the content for the depression topic on NIHSeniorHealth.

  • New OHRP FAQs and answers on prisoner research . . . . The Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has posted on its website a new set of Frequently Asked Questions and Answers (FAQs) regarding the conduct of research involving prisoners. These FAQs provide guidance on OHRP’s current thinking on research involving prisoners and should be viewed as recommendations (except where specific regulatory requirements are cited). The FAQs can be accessed at www.hhs.gov/ohrp/ by clicking the “Frequently Asked Questions” tab.

  • Education non-profit suggests raising student achievement through longer school hours . . . . An education policy think tank, Education Sector, suggests that to raise student achievement, school systems should increase the amount of time students spend in school. The recommendation is in the organization’s new report On the Clock: Rethinking the Way Schools Use Time. The addition and improvement of the use of time was at the top of the list of recommendations in another report, Getting Smarter, Becoming Fairer, issued last year by a national public education task force comprised of political, business, and education leaders. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requirement that states provide supplementary education services to low-income students in low-performing schools has been generating interest in extended time programs is. The Education Sector report examines both the educational and political dimensions of time reform. It presents the findings of a wide range of research on time reform, discusses the impact of various time reforms on the life of schools and beyond, and makes recommendations for policymakers about how to best leverage time in and out of school to improve student achievement. The report can be downloaded at www.educationsector.org/usr_doc/OntheClock.pdf.