White House Memo Details Progress on SBS Development

A memo released this month by the White House during its self-proclaimed “Tear of Evidence for Action” updated plans to ensure evidence-based social and behavioral research is used by the United States government. The memo outlines actions of the National Science and Technology Council’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Subcommittee (SBS) of the Committee on Science of the National Science and Technology Council, including a plan to advance evidence-based policymaking by April 2023.

The SBS was established for purpose including determining best practices for the use of social and behavioral science evidence in Federal policymaking and practices, improving research and development coordination, providing guidance to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and identifying topics where social and behavioral science can be used to accomplish priorities. “The social and behavioral sciences,” the memo notes, “offer unique tools for describing, understanding, and addressing societal challenges, and assessing and evaluating initiatives, programs, and policies.

The subcommittee was decommissioned during the Trump administration, but the Biden administration formally rechartered SBS in April as part of the “Year of Evidence for Action” initiative. This initiative, co-chartered by the OSTP and the Office of Management and Budget, sought to increase collaboration between researchers and the government, share federal agencies’ leading practices to generate greater knowledge and expand strategies and structures to increase the capacity for evidence-backed policymaking.

The memo provides information about progress on the SBS’ first task, delivering a whole-of-government framework for the use of social and behavioral research in evidence-based policymaking by April 30, 2023. The SBS has established interagency working, groups, which are aimed at five of the administration’s focuses: accessibility of digital infrastructure and services; communicating hazard information and other types of uncertainty; decarbonization and justice; good jobs; and safely reducing criminal justice system interactions, improving rehabilitation during incarceration and enhancing Re-entry.

Additionally, several cross-cutting questions have been established to help guide the groups’ progress. These questions include an emphasis on preexisting research, established successful methods, current research on applicable topics in progress, possibilities of collaborative efforts, unique contributions the social and behavioral sciences have on topics of interest and identifying opportunities and barriers for research and its findings being implemented into policy outcomes.

Further information will be shared with the public as it is available.

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Molly Gahagen

Molly Gahagen is a third-year student at Johns Hopkins University studying political science and international studies. She is currently the social science communications intern at SAGE Publishing.

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