Public Policy Briefs: Federal and Legislative Update for the Behavioral Sciences

NSF to Issue RFP for Proposed Center for Research on Violence

The National Science Foundation (NSF) held a meeting on November 16 for representatives from behavioral and social science associations to discuss a proposed center/consortium for Research on Violence. NSF and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will each contribute $2 million for a center or consortium for its first year. NSF has committed to 5 years of support, after which the center/consortium will be evaluated for further funding.

The meeting at NSF was held to solicit ideas from the research community on the nature and scope of the proposed center, such as research areas, goals, and the optimum mix of basic and applied research. Structural issues were also discussed as well as training activities associated with the center.

Representatives from all the disciplines funded through NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate attended the meeting. NSF representatives stressed that the successful proposal will include a well-integrated plan for an interdisciplinary research agenda. It is expected that the RFP will be issued in January 1995, and the winning proposal will be announced in the summer.

Third OSTP Forum Held

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) organized the third in a series of large meetings to debate research needs and devise a research agenda for the future. 'Meeting the Challenge: Health, Safety, and Food for America' was held November 21-22 in Washington, DC. Researchers from across the country, representatives of scientific organizations, and federal employees from the research funding agencies were among those in attendance. The breadth of the topics covered was considerable, ranging from new foods and feedstocks to population control and improving the quality of health care.

The goal of this series is to produce a document that lays out in broad policy terms the direction of future federal research support. This document will be used to coordinate the vast research enterprise funded by the federal government and to manage efficiently the research funded by the various federal departments and agencies. This is part of a larger effort to construct a coherent federal research policy.

Psychology was well-represented at the meeting, which included break-out sessions to discuss human capital and data needs, health promotion and disease and injury prevention, and health systems and services research. APA, a cosponsor of the forum, was represented by William Howell, PhD.

President's Science Council Meets

The first meeting of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) was held in October. PCAST was established by executive order in November 1993, but its members were not appointed until August 1994. The first meeting was devoted to planning an agenda. Because of its late start (almost halfway through President Clinton's term) and its irregular meeting schedule (three meetings a year), some doubt it will have much clout in the Washington policy process.

One unusual aspect of the meeting was the frequent mention of the application of the behavioral and social sciences to solve the problems on PCAST's agenda, such as R&D investment, technology transfer, new roles for the federal labs, health research, and academic science. Psychologist Judith Rodin, PhD, President of the University of Pennsylvania, serves on PCAST. She is the only psychologist on the Council.

PCAST's immediate task is to critique the strategic plans of the nine committees under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). These plans include research priorities for federal R&D support. PCAST will most likely meet next at the end of February 1995.

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