homeprev issuesexecpublic affairsSTAFFASA home

Public Affairs Update

  • ASA and other social science groups meet with NIH director . . . . ASA Executive Officer Sally Hillsman and Director of Communications Lee Herring, along with a dozen-plus members of the Coalition for the Advancement of Health Through Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (CAHT-BSSR), met with National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias Zerhouni last month to discuss how NIH can better tap behavioral and social science to advance the nation’s health research enterprise. Zerhouni warmly received the group and reiterated comments familiar to members of the social science community who had heard him testify before a House appropriations subcommittee. He stated that “discoveries and advances will only come from truly interdisciplinary teams and multidisciplinary studies” and that the behavioral/social sciences are critical to this. Describing his view as “systemic,” he recognizes that behavioral/social sciences are at the forefront of several critical national health problems and that he would like to prioritize the ten areas of research that would achieve 80 percent of the payoff in health benefits. Other signs that these disciplines may become integrated into NIH’s core thinking include the fact that during the annual NIH Director’s retreat, many longtime institute directors said that there was an increased amount of discussion of these sciences than in the past. Among topics discussed at the CAHT-BSSR meeting with Zerhouni: (1) The National Research Council/Institute of Medicine current review of NIH’s structure; (2) basic research support in the behavioral and social sciences; (3) health disparities research; (4) the National Children’s Study; (5) human subjects protection; and (6) NIH’s role in supporting training (e.g., through the National Research Service Award and other mechanisms of undergraduate, graduate, pre- and postdoctoral training support).

  • Speaking of social science training and the National Research Service Award . . . . The National Research Council/Institute of Medicine’s (NRC/IOM) now infamous 2000 report, Addressing the Nation’s Changing Needs for Biomedical and Behavioral Scientists, which generated a minority opinion from psychologist John Kihlstrom critical of its conclusions that no expansion was needed for behavioral and social science training through NRSA, has been reconstituted for another round of analysis of national training needs. Formerly an annual ritual since the establishment of the award in 1974, the NRC/IOM analysis of national health science training needs has been undertaken about every four years for the last several. As this new panel prepares to develop its 2004 report (the 12th such report), its composition is vastly improved over the 2000 committee, which had only one social/behavioral scientist among its members. Sociologist Larry Bumpass, Professor Emeritus, is among five social/behavioral scientists on the 13-member panel. His knowledge of demographic methods and national databases will help generate data on the number of researchers in behavioral, biomedical, and clinical areas and make projections through 2014.

  • Three strikes law spikes homicide rate . . . . A study published in Criminology & Public Policy finds that increased homicide rates may be an unintended consequence of so-called “three strikes” legislation. University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) criminologists analyzed data from 188 U.S. cities to examine the possible “homicide promoting effects of the laws.” They found that cities in states with three-strikes laws experienced a 13 to 14 percent increase in homicide rates after implementing the laws. “Criminals perceive that they will get the same punishment for murder as they would for having a third strike,” said UAB criminologist and study co-author John Sloan, so they may try to kill witnesses or police to avoid being caught. The researchers say these findings are a prime example of unintended negative consequences derived directly from legislative policy.

  • American Psychological Association appoints new chief . . . . Norman B. Anderson, has been selected as the next Chief Executive Officer of the 155,000-member American Psychological Association (APA). He takes APA’s helm on January 1, 2003, replacing Raymond D. Fowler, who was in the post since 1990. Currently a professor of health and social behavior at the Harvard University School of Public Health, Anderson was the founding director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). During his OBSSR tenure (1995-2000), OBSSR grew from a barely noticeable annual budget of $2 million to $19-million and garnered influence that now stretches across NIH’s biomedically oriented institutes. OBSSR has organized the funding of more than $90 million in health research initiatives, including studies on cancer, heart disease, mental health, and diabetes. Anderson’s research interests lie at the intersection of health and behavior and health and race. At Duke University, he conducted research on the role of stress in the development of hypertension in African Americans and directed the NIH-funded Exploratory Center for Research on Health Promotion in Older Minorities. Among his priorities at APA are bringing psychology’s broad expertise to the public and to policymakers.

  • New Deputy Director of the Census Bureau . . . . U.S. Census Director Charles L. Kincannon has selected statistician Hermann Habermann to serve as Deputy Director of the Census Bureau. Prior to this appointment, Habermann served since 1994 as Director of the Untied Nations’ Statistics Division, coordinating a program of data collection, methodological work, and technical cooperation across the globe. He serve for ten years at the White House Office of Management and Budget in a number of roles, including Chief Statistician, Deputy Assistant Director for Management, and Deputy Associate Director for Budget. Habermann has a doctorate in statistics from the University of Wisconsin, is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, and is a member of the Committee on National Statistics.