Washington Update: SBE Vacancies, No Clarity From Midterms

NSF’s SBE Directorate Seeks to Fill Numerous Leadership Posts 

The Directorate of Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation is seeking applicants for several leadership posts, including directors for two SBE divisions. The open positions include:

In addition, NSF recently announced that Joanne Tornow, SBE deputy assistant director, will leave that directorate in December to lead the NSF’s Office of Information and Resource Management,. A search will commence to replace Tornow; in the meantime, Clifford Gabriel, most recently the acting head of Office of Information and Resource Management, will fill the position in the interim.

Tornow had overseen SBE through much of the year after Myron Guttman left as director last year and Fay Lomax Cook took over in September.

This article was drawn from the Washington Update newsletter of the Consortium of Social Science Agencies.
This article was drawn from the Washington Update newsletter of the Consortium of Social Science Agencies.

Outcome of Midterm Elections May Not Offer Clarity over FY 2015 Endgame 

Federal funding for social sciences in through the NSF and other agencies remains unsettled, with both authorization and appropriations bills for the NSF, among other agencies, in limbo. The remaining weeks of 2014 could see an effort to pass a sweeping omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2015, should the Republicans gain control of the Senate after the midterm congressional elections on November 4.  Even though the Democrats would still control the Senate until January, Republican leaders have stated that under such a scenario they would work during the lame duck session to pass an omnibus, allowing the 114th Congress to start in January with a clean slate.  However, such a feat has proven impossible in recent history. For example, the FY 2014 appropriations process was not completed until January of this year, and the stalemate over the FY 2013 appropriations bills led to the 16-day federal government shutdown; the FY 2013 appropriations process finally concluded six months into the fiscal year.

The federal government in currently operating under a continuing resolution until December 11. Though the midterm elections will take place tomorrow, given the closeness of a handful of key Senate races that could result in runoffs, it may not be immediately clear which party will control the Senate in 2015.  It also leaves the outlook for completion of the FY 2015 appropriations bills unclear.

Census Bureau Seeks Comment on Proposed Elimination of ACS Questions

On October 31, the U.S. Census Bureau issued a request for public comment related to the 2014 Content Review of the American Community Survey (ACS). According to the Federal Register Notice, the 2014 review “is the most comprehensive effort ever undertaken by the Census Bureau to review content on the survey, seeking to understand which federal programs use the information collected by each question, the justification for each question, and assess how the Census Bureau might reduce respondent burden.” The review looked at the ACS’s 72 questions and proposed removal of seven from the annual questionnaire. Among the seven questions slated for elimination is the question on “Undergraduate Field of Degree.”

This potential move raises concerns for many in the social and behavioral sciences community, as well as the NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, which uses the data collected via the “field of degree” question in its efforts to measure and track the U.S. science and engineering workforce.

Comments are due December 30.


Consortium of Social Science Associations

The Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) is an advocacy organization that promotes attention to and U.S. government funding for the social and behavioral sciences. It serves as a bridge between the academic research community and the Washington policy-making community. Its members consist of more than 100 professional associations, scientific societies, universities, and research centers and institutes.

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