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Public Affairs Update

  • NSF is authorized "for business" . . . . In the December 2002 “Public Affairs Update” readers were alerted to the likely signing into law of HR 4664, the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002, by President Bush. Shortly after going to press, Bush signed the bill, which re-authorizes Congress to appropriate funds for the $4-plus billion basic science agency from Fiscal Year 2003 through FY 2007, with a plan to double the agency’s budget to nearly $10 billion over those five years. As the nation’s primary funding source for basic science, NSF funds about $6 million of new and continuing grants in sociological science each year. The Sociology Program, in the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences, itself receives 200-plus regular grant proposals and about 100 dissertation improvement proposals annually. With this doubling authority in hand, it now remains for the House and Senate appropriations committees to follow through on this plan as they annually determine funding levels for the various competing agencies that fall within the HUD and Independent Agencies appropriations legislation in which NSF is included.

  • Adjusted 2000 census data now available . . . . Responding to a ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (in Carter v. Department of Commerce), and following much partisan political wrangling, the U.S. Census Bureau has recently released long-awaited statistically adjusted 2000 Census figures. The University of California-Los Angeles has created an FTP site for the data for all states at: But these very large files (even for small states) do not come with any software to interpret them. The U.S. Census Bureau also does not support the use of these data, which utilize sampling and modeling (applied to the official Census 2000 figures) as well as results of the Accuracy and Coverage Evaluation (ACE), a sample survey intended to measure net over- and undercounts in the census. The Bureau issued a nearly 200-word caveat with the data file, stating that the “numbers are not official Census 2000 counts. These numbers are estimates of the population based on a statistical adjustment method . . . . The Census Bureau has determined that the ACE estimates dramatically overstate the level of undercoverage . . . and that the . . . data are, therefore, not better than the unadjusted data. Accordingly, the Department of Commerce deems that these estimates should not be used for any purpose that legally requires use of data from the decennial census and assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of the data for any purpose whatsoever. The Department, including the U.S. Census Bureau, will provide no assistance in the interpretation or use of these numbers.” The impetus for the release of these data was the 2001 urging by Democratic Oregon state legislators who contended that the adjustment process would compensate for millions of uncounted Americans in major urban areas that typically vote for liberal candidates. Republicans had argued that any use of the data would be unconstitutional, and federal government lawyers had claimed that the data were “predecisional” and thereby could be denied to the state legislators who had filed a Freedom of Information Act request. Clearly, the fight is not over . . .

  • Department of Education unveils "What Works Clearinghouse" (WWC) . . . . The U.S. Department of Education’s new Institute of Education Sciences (formerly the Office of Educational Research and Improvement) has developed a website ( to provide information on research on effective methods in education and teaching. It is aimed at public, educator, and policymaker audiences and focuses on research making causal inferences. The Department welcomes suggestions as to what to include on the site, which is administered by the Department through a contract to the joint venture of the American Institutes for Research and the Campbell Collaboration. WWC’s 14-member Technical Advisory Group (TAG), which met in November to advise the WWC in its development of Standards for Scientific Evidence on Educational Effectiveness, consists of experts in educational methodology and research. Sociologist Thomas D. Cook (Professor of Sociology, Psychology, Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University and Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research) serves on TAG. Among other tasks, TAG will help validate standards for research syntheses, monitor and inform the methodological aspects of the research syntheses, review and recommend improvements to the WWC evidence reports, as well as recommend whether draft reviews of evidence should be entered into the WWC database. The reviews and feedback from the TAG will provide a source of independent expert input into WWC products. “. . . .TAG members are drawn from this nation’s most expert social science research methodologists,” said psychologist Robert Boruch of the University of Pennsylvania and principal investigator for the WWC initiative. “Their willingness to serve in this capacity brings great credibility to the work of the WWC and is indicative of the general desire throughout the social science community to see the efforts of the WWC succeed.” The final Standards will be issued this month, and will act as a guide in developing synthesis reports on the evidence of effectiveness of a variety of approaches, products, and practices intended to raise student achievement and produce other important educational outcomes.