On February 28, 2018, the National Science Foundation released its FY19 request to Congress, providing a breakdown of funding allocations of the White House’s overall $7.47 billion request for 2019. Although the FY19 request would include an overall 2.4 percent increase in research and related activities funding from FY17 enacted levels, the NSF’s budget proposal would cut funding for the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences directorate by 9.1 percent. If the budget were adopted by Congress, the division of social and economic sciences (SES), which includes political science programs, would receive an 11.4 percent cut. The NSF estimates this cut will reduce the funding rate for competitive awards in the SBE directorate from 24 percent in FY 2017 to 21 percent.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded Jackson State University researchers a $350,000 EAGER grant to support untested, “high-risk” exploratory research that potentially may yield a “high payoff.” Byron D’Andra Orey is a current APSA Council member and former member of the APSA Committee on the Status of Blacks in the Profession.
Orey and Zhang are using surveys and measures of biases and physiological responses to determine whether police officers with negative subconscious prejudice are likely to commit crucial errors resulting in shootings of unarmed African-Americans.
One early-stage study involves exploring serious consequences that result from possible bias by police against unarmed African-Americans.
This research is led by Dr. Byron D’Andra Orey, professor in the Department of Political Science, and Dr. Yu Zhang, former assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, both in the College of Liberal Arts.
As the House of Representatives considers an appropriations package (H.R. 3354) that includes funding for the National Science Foundation, a proposed amendment threatens to reduce social science funding at NSF. To contact your Member of Congress to oppose this amendment and other amendments that threaten social science research, see an Action Alert issued by the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA).
Amendment #150 seeks a 0.5 percent increase of funding for biological and physical sciences research at the NSF, while keeping overall funding levels for the NSF Research and Related Activities Account at the $30.2 million level. Without an additional offset, the proposed increase threatens to shift funding away from other disciplines, including research in the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate. Like similar amendments that have targeted the SBE directorate in recent years, the amendment would interfere in NSF’s longstanding and highly effective practice of setting investment priorities based on the organization’s scientific expertise and on its world renowned merit review process.
Other amendments to the appropriations package also would affect social science research, including an amendment (#105) to reduce the allocation for the Census Bureau, and an amendment (#73) to cut the Institute of Education Sciences at the Department of Education by 32 percent from FY17 levels. See the COSSA Action Alert and related talking points for more information.
APSA is dedicated to promoting strong federal support for political science research and education. The association partners with several coalitions to encourage support for political science and to educate policymakers and the public about the value of the discipline. APSA members play a key role in making the case for federal funding, and the summer is an ideal time to take action.
The federal appropriations process is complex and often strays wildly from the timelines and processes described in government and policy textbooks. This year, the process kicked off in May with the release of the president’s FY18 budget request. The budget request includes severe cuts to programs that support political science research and education, including the elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities and an 11 percent cut to the National Science Foundation. For more information about the budget request, see APSA’s advocacy page.
The president’s budget request is not binding, but rather a formal recommendation of how the administration would like to shape the budget to reflect its priorities. Typically, following the request’s release, Congress will begin work on a congressional budget resolution, a blueprint for the remainder of the appropriations process that sets levels of discretionary spending. This summer, subcommittees will draft bills according to the spending levels set by the appropriations committees.
As the appropriations process unfolds this summer, here are a few ways you can make your voice heard:
- Check in with the federal relations office at your university or college. Federal relations offices frequently coordinate visits by members of Congress to campus and meetings with members or staff at home and in Washington, DC. They often have a wealth of resources detailing the institution’s priorities and previous work with local representatives. Tell your university’s office about the issues you care about and find out what resources and opportunities are available to you.
- Ask for an August meeting. Members’ schedules for district visits are often booked up far in advance. As a constituent, you still have a good chance to get a meeting with the member or staff by working now with your federal relations office or by reaching out on your own, if your institution doesn’t have a government relations office. See our guide for setting up a meeting on APSA’s Member Action page.
- Get to know your representative’s committee and subcommittee assignments. Are your representatives’ members of key authorizing or appropriating committees and subcommittees? Check out the important committees for NSF, NEH, and international education on APSA’s advocacy pages and follow the committees’ work over the summer.
- Share an op-ed with your local paper. Congressional offices routinely monitor local news sources to keep abreast of constituent concerns. Consider pitching a piece to a local paper, keeping committee membership in mind when crafting your message. See tips for writing op-eds on APSA’s advocacy and public engagement pages.
- Visit your representatives at home. If you were able to secure a meeting earlier in the summer, prep for your meeting using APSA’s talking points on political science and funding. For more guidance on defining your “ask” and shaping your message, see the Consortium of Social Science Associations’ Advocacy Handbook and their breakdown of federal funding by state. Didn’t get a meeting? It’s not too late to check in and see if you can meet later this month. If you can’t set up a meeting, ask your representatives about their support for the NSF, NEH, and international education at a town hall event or write a letter. Visit APSA’s Member Action page for more information about writing to your member of Congress, model letters, and links to further handbooks and tips.
The summer months are an ideal time for APSA members to make their voices heard as the budgets for political science research and education are finalized for FY18. For more information about APSA’s advocacy work and resources, contact email@example.com.
On May 16, 2017, the Coalition for National Science Funding held its 23rd annual exhibition showcasing projects supported by the National Science Foundation. This year, APSA hosted the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES), an international and collaborative project that conducts surveys to examine electoral behavior. The project is carried out in 54 countries. Dr. Georgia Kernell of the University of California, Los Angeles and Dr. Elizabeth Zechmeister of Vanderbilt University discussed the project and how they use CSES data in their scholarship. Recent publications including CSES data are available here. Attendees from congressional offices and from the NSF, including Director France Córdova, met with exhibitors at the event. The University of Michigan also exhibited political science research, featuring the American National Election Studies, a project that uses surveys to examine voting, public opinion, and political participation in the United States. Dr. Ted Brader, Dr. Vincent Hutchings, and Dr. Ken Kollman, all of the University of Michigan, discussed the work of ANES at the event.
Congressional Appropriations and Activities
The 114th Congress concluded in December, passing a continuing resolution that will keep funding for agencies in a holding pattern until April 28 and shift the responsibility for a FY 2017 budget to the new Congress. H.R.2028, passed on December 9, 2016, extended a previous continuing resolution that maintained FY 2016 funding levels beyond the end of the fiscal year. Funding for the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Title IV and Fulbright-Hays for the remainder of FY 2017 will be set by the 115th Congress. It is unclear whether the new Congress will extend
current funding levels through FY 2017 and turn their focus instead to FY 2018, or seek to make significant budgetary changes for the final months of FY 2017.
Although the appropriations bills were not approved by the 114th Congress, much of the proposed legislation included positive signs for the social science community. The House and Senate committees included roughly steady levels of funding for NSF research in their proposals. The House bill decreased NSF funding by $57 million overall, but increased the NSF’s Research and Related Activities account by $46 million above FY 2016 as enacted. The report for the House bill also included language in support of research “across all scientific disciplines,” and did not include specific funding levels or cuts for specific directorates. A press release accompanying the passage of the Senate appropriations bill also emphasized the funding of “all scientific disciplines.”
The 114th Congress also passed the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S.3084) just under the wire. The compromise bill, unlike previous versions introduced in the 114th Congress in the Senate and House, does not authorize appropriations for the National Science Foundation. The legislation reaffirms the NSF’s merit-based review process, instructs the NSF to award grants to increase participation of women and minority groups in STEM, and requires the NSF to increase oversight of large-scale research projects over their full life-cycle. The House of Representatives approved the legislation in a rare pro-forma session under suspension of the rules on December 16, after many Representatives had already left town. President Barack Obama signed S.3084 into law on January 6, 2017.
In 2016, APSA worked with coalition groups to combat proposals that threatened authorizations levels for the National Science Foundation’s SBE directorate and funding for Fulbright-Hays. APSA pushed back against provisions in the America COMPETES Act that passed the House in May 2015 that would have set directorate-specific funding levels at the NSF. The legislation allocated the SBE directorate $150 million, 45 percent below funding levels at the time. The Senate Appropriations Committee also passed a bill in June 2016 that would have slashed Fulbright-Hays funding by 69% from FY 2016 levels. APSA will continue to monitor legislative developments and stand firmly against any similar legislation in the new Congress.
Throughout 2016 and into 2017, APSA continued to advocate for the profession in collaboration with the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA), the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), the Coalition for the National Science Foundation (CNSF) and the Coalition for International Education. APSA regularly meets with policymakers to inform them about the value of political science research and our critical role in teaching civics and developing an informed democratic citizenry. We continue to emphasize the importance of fact-based research and important theoretical insights of political scientists around the world. APSA informs members about legislative developments and issues advocacy alerts through the APSA website and social media platforms. We offer and continue to develop resources to support political scientists in grassroots activities and encourage member participation in advocacy days sponsored by the NEH and COSSA.
Following the 2016 election, the Trump Administration has not issued any policy statements or made clear its approach to the federal funding of scientific research. However, in January 2017, The Hill reported that the new administration’s budget blueprint included a plan to defund the National Endowment for Humanities, among other significant budget cuts. APSA is joining the NHA’s efforts to educate Congress about the necessity of NEH funding and taking part in other activities to inform policymakers about the critical importance of the discipline.
On May 24, 2016, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY17 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill. The legislation funds NSF at $7.4 billion, a decrease of $57 million compared to FY16 as enacted. NSF’s Research and Related Activities account is increased by $46 million above FY16 as enacted. Report language for the bill includes positive language in support of research “across all scientific disciplines” and does not mention any directorates for specific funding levels or cuts, as some past bills have.
Read more about FY17 funding developments here.
On April 26, APSA participated in the Coalition for National Science Funding’s 22nd Annual Exhibition and Reception. Held on Capitol Hill, the event highlighted research from a range of disciplines funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
APSA hosted two political scientists, Patrick Brandt (University of Texas at Dallas) and Javier Osorio (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York), who are part of a research team using big data to address civil protest and international conflict. Dr. Brandt and Dr. Osorio spoke about their research and about the importance of NSF funding to their work.
Learn more about the event here.