July/August 2014 Issue • Volume 42 • Issue 6

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Science Policy

NSF Addressing Transparency and Accountability:

Below is a modified letter from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Acting Director Cora Marrett regarding a December 11, 2013, “Important Notice to the Community,” which announced NSF’s focus on transparency and accountability. The NSF is addressing two primary areas of the initiative: Improving public understanding of our funding decisions through our award Abstracts and Titles, and ensuring that the broad areas of supported research (or portfolios) are aligned to the national interest.

“We are acting to ensure that our award Abstracts and Titles clearly convey to the public justification for our actions. First, NSF abstracts are the public face of NSF investments and decision-making and they can be used to immediately address a specific area of interest from those outside of the NSF regarding what projects are supported and why. By providing clearer articulation of our actions we will benefit the scientific enterprise and better communicate the value and excitement of what we do. An NSF award abstract, with its title, is an NSF document that describes the project and justifies the expenditure of Federal funds…. Thus, an NSF award abstract which is intended for a broad audience may differ from the Project Summary that is submitted as part of a technically reviewed proposal. Furthermore, the title of an NSF supported project must describe the purpose of the research in nontechnical terms to the fullest possible extent.” 

For the complete NSF Notice, see http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2014/in136/in136.pdf.

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Census Bureau Story Maps Illustrate Metro Area and County Population Change

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released interactive thematic maps on the nation’s population change. The Census Bureau’s two new story maps illustrate metro area and county population change. Built with Esri technology, these maps allow users to swipe between two different views of population data to better understand patterns and trends in the United States. “These ‘Story Maps’ provide insight on emerging trends in population change across the country,” said Jason Devine of the Census Bureau’s Population Division. The first map shows the difference a decade has made in population change patterns in metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas. The second map shows the extent of population growth in each county between 2012 and 2013 and identifies the primary source of that population change (such as natural increase or net migration). For more information, visit http://www.census.gov/dataviz/visualizations/maps/.

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Impact of Behavioral Health Conditions and Treatment on Young Adults

Recently released data shows that older adolescents and young adults with emotional and behavioral health conditions are much more likely to have significant problems with school performance, employment, and housing stability, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). According to the findings, nearly 8 percent of older adolescents (ages 16 to 17) with co-occurring depression and a substance use disorder (SUD) do not have a stable place to live, moving three or more times in the past year. Among older adolescents with depression and SUD who are enrolled in school, 13.5 percent have academic difficulties, with a grade average of “D” or lower. These challenges make it difficult for older adolescents with mental and SUDs to successfully transition into adulthood. Young adults (ages 18-25) with co-occurring serious mental illness (SMI) and SUDs are less likely than those without co-occurring disorders to be high school graduates. Young adults with SMI who received treatment were more likely to graduate high school than their peers who did not receive treatment. For more information, visit www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/advisories/1405060514.aspx.

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U.S. Teen Pregnancy, Birth, and Abortion Rates Reach Historic Lows

Recently released findings from the Guttmacher Institute reported that teen pregnancy rates declined in every state and among all racial and ethnic groups. Overall, rates of teen pregnancy, birth, and abortion have declined dramatically in the United States since their peak in the early 1990s. In 2010, some 614,000 pregnancies occurred among teenage women aged 15 to 19, for a rate of 57.4 pregnancies per 1,000 women that age. This marks a 51 percent decline from the 1990 peak, and a 15 percent decline in just two years, from 67.8 in 2008, according to the “U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions, 2010: National and State Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity” study. The study also found dramatic declines in teen pregnancy rates among all racial and ethnic groups. Teen pregnancy rates declined in all 50 states between 2008 and 2010. Yet even with ongoing declines, substantial disparities remain between states. In 2010, New Mexico had the highest teenage pregnancy rate (80 per 1,000), and New Hampshire (28 per 1,000) had the lowest rate. The authors suggest that the demographic characteristics of states’ populations, the availability of comprehensive sex education, knowledge about and availability of contraceptive services, and cultural attitudes toward sexual behavior and early childbearing likely play a role in these variations. For the full report, see www.guttmacher.org/pubs/USTPtrends10.pdf.


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