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Federal Agencies Update

February 14, 2019

The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health has issued a request for information to gather broad public input on a revised definition of behavioral and social science research. The definition is used to assess and monitor NIH support of the behavioral and social sciences across all NIH Institutes and Centers. Comments must be submitted through IdeaScale by February 22, 2019.


NSF Announces Substantial Funding Opportunities Relevant to SBE Scientists

There are new funding opportunities at NSF for behavioral and brain scientists. They are called the “Big Ideas” and they focus on critical issues in science and society. The purpose of each Big Idea is to motivate dynamic and innovative scholars to create and implement new and potentially transformative interdisciplinary approaches to some very large societal challenges.  See letter from NSF Associate Director of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Arthur “Skip” Lupia here.


Credit: NSF

Joanne Tornow to Lead Biological Sciences Directorate

Dr. Tornow has served with NSF for nearly two decades, including two years as deputy assistant director for NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences directorate (SBE); and a year as acting head of SBE. This past year she led BIO in an acting capacity Her work at NSF has included supporting cross-disciplinary, convergent research that draws on the strengths of scientists and engineers across multiple fields to solve problems.

Many FABBS members depend on support from BIO for fundamental research that enhances understanding of life in all its forms and increases our knowledge of how complex systems operate and interact.

Tornow received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Rutgers University in 1979 and her Ph.D. in human genetics from Yale University in 1983. Prior to coming to NSF, Tornow served on the faculty at Portland State University and the University of Southern Mississippi, where she attained tenure. Her research background is in molecular biology and genetics, focusing on the regulation of gene expression in eukaryotic systems.

Read the news release from NSF here.


FABBS joins community sign-on letter urging the Education Department to use research and evidence to inform Title IX Sexual Harassment Regulations

Led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Educational Research Association (AERA), FABBS joined 72 scientific societies to submit comments to the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed changes to Title IX regulations. 

Title IX is the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funding. In November, the Education Department issued draft changes to Title IX that would narrowly redefine sexual harassment and restrict the processes at U.S. schools and colleges for reporting and responding to charges of sexual harassment.

“The potential rollback of Title IX protections for women has serious implications for science and is of concern to us all. These comments are based on evidence and aim to create safe and productive environments for scientific discovery.  FABBS appreciates the opportunity to take a stand to support our female colleagues and the women who we teach and train. ”

Nora Newcombe, FABBS President

The comments submitted by the scientific societies emphasize three major concerns while citing relevant research:

  • The Definition of Harassment Has Been Narrowed at Odds with the Intent of Title IX
  • The Circumstances Under Which Title IX Applies Are Too Restrictive
  • The Notice Requirements Are Too Restrictive

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