SSRC, NSF Team Up To Examine Impact of Public Health Guidance

A large infographic from the World Health Organization outlines 12 points for safe use of non-medical cloth faces masks
The COVID pandemic was a prime opportunity to see public health guidance in action. A new collaboration will examine the impact on actual health and well-being of such advice. (Graphic: World Health Organization)

In a new initiative with an initial $20 million budget, the U.S. National Science Foundation is partnering with the Social Science Research Council to identify and support science research into public health guidance and its impact. Under the partnership, the Social Science Research Council, or SSRC, will donate up to $7.5 million to NSF over the next two years for the initiative, while the NSF will invest $12.5 million for a combined total of up to $20 million. The project, “Advance Scientific Knowledge about the Impact of Public Health Guidance,” is currently accepting research proposals.

“The public interest in this endeavor is self-evident in the time of COVID-19,” Kellina Craig-Henderson, acting assistant director of the NSF’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, wrote in an Dear Colleague letter, “but even after this pandemic is successfully managed, there will continue to be a public interest and societal need, not only in the U.S. but across the globe, for research to clarify what contributes to the impact of public health guidance.”

Craig-Henderson continued, “Across the country, public- and private-sector decision makers are working to improve the situation for those who face public health challenges. Many seek ways to improve the impact of public health guidance to promote the health and well-being of individuals and the broader society at the community, regional, national and global levels. What steps can be taken to improve the use, usefulness and impact of basic science-based public health information?”

The New York-based SSRC is an independent nonprofit organization that has supported social science research since 1923. NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; to secure the national defense…” Under this remit, for example, from March 2020 through July 2021 there were more than 60 awards funded that advance knowledge regarding public health guidance just within the Social and Economic Sciences (SES) division of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences.

“Fundamental social and behavioral science has the power to help every American live a healthier and more prosperous life,” said Rayvon Fouché, director of the Social and Economic Sciences Division. “The societal benefits from robust exploratory research are amplified by dynamic partnerships like this one. We are grateful to SSRC for partnering with NSF in our shared mission to enhance the resilience and strength of communities across the entire country.”

Investigators interested in joint NSF-SSRC funding should follow the proposal preparation guidelines contained in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide and submit proposals to the participating NSF programs below. Details on how to prepare and submit a research proposal for this specific collaboration appear in Craig-Henderson’s Dear Colleague Letter.

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