Biden White House Resurrects Social and Behavioral Science Advisory Panel

The White House announced last week that the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s National Science and Technology Council will re-commission the Social and Behavioral Sciences Subcommittee of the Committee on Science. The announcement came as part of the Biden administration’s “Year of Evidence for Action,” co-hosted by OSTP and Office of Management and Budget, and was one of a number of specific initiatives aimed at upgrading the creation and use of evidence in government. 

The OSTP advises the executive branch of the U.S. government on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of the economy, national security, homeland security, health, foreign relations, and the environment. It is currently headed by a social scientist, Alondra Nelson

The Social And Behavioral Sciences (SBS) subcommittee was created in President Obama’s second term, then eliminated in the beginning of the Trump administration as part of its broader structural changes on science policy. The subcommittee represented more than a dozen organizations across government, including the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Health and Human Services. During its first incarnation the collaborative group completed more than 30 pilots with rigorous evaluations. Examples included highlighting an approach to home energy efficiency by focusing on the short-term and relatable benefits of saving money on their utility bills, rather than trying to sell the goal of making a dent in climate change. Other projects included helping Americans and servicemembers better plan for retirement

The revamped subcommittee will carry out short-term, high-priority tasks using SBS evidence in federal government practices and policies. The first short-term task, based on the subcommittee’s charter, is a federal government-wide overview of SBS research that can advance evidence-based policymaking. The delivery date for this review is April 30, 2023. The next goal will be to lay the groundwork for longer-term coordination of agency efforts related to these topics. This is part of a larger campaign by President Biden to signal that science matters under his watch. As SBS funding requests confirm, this definitively includes social and behvioral science among the physical, medical and engineering sciences that usually receive the spotlight. 

The Biden administration also announced partnerships with academic and nonprofit groups that “have demonstrated expertise in translating research evidence to practice and policy,” according to the White House. These partners include the Data Foundation; the Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative at the Pennsylvania State University; the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois-Chicago and the Center for Tax and Budget AccountabilityPew Charitable Trusts; the Policy Lab at Brown UniversityResults for America; and the Urban Institute.   

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Maxine Terry

Maxine Terry is a corporate communications specialist with SAGE Publishing. She previously covered judiciary and housing policy as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

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