National Science Board and Board on Behavioral, Cognitive and Sensory Sciences Hold Fall Meetings

November 21, 2019

The National Science Board (NSB) met on November 19th and 20th. NSF Director, France Córdova, reviewed recent NSF activities and accomplishments including Nobel Prize and MacArthur winners supported by NSF. Córdova announced Convergence Accelerator awards for two Big Ideas: Harnessing the Data Revolution and the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier. Daniel Gorogg was among the new senior staff announced. He recently joined the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate at NSF coming from the Alfred P. Sloan foundation.

Dr. Karen Marrongelle, Director of the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate, presented a portfolio overview, including the basic education research supported by EHR. Dr. Marrongelle pointed to the change in the way we think about the abilities of babies to have abstract thought, even without speech, thanks to EHR funded research. Another example was the work done by Dr. Elizabeth Brannon, University of Pennsylvania, on children’s ability to determine proximate magnitude that can predict their math scores on standardized tests 2.5 years later. Another FABBS scientist mentioned was Dr. Sian Beilock, Columbia University, for her work on overcoming bias and negative stereotypes. In response to a question from the board, Dr. Marrongelle explained that one of the biggest challenges is getting the evidence to inform the practice.

Other presentations of import to FABBS members included an update on the Merit Review Digest. In FY 2018, the NSF funding rate for research proposals was 22 percent, with about $4 billion of high scoring research left unfunded.

A discussion about research collaboration in an era of strategic competition followed a presentation by Stephanie Segal, Center for Strategic and International Security (CSIS). Concerns have increased about foreign influence, particularly Chinese, on the US scientific enterprise. Recognizing the value of international collaboration, CSIS is developing recommendations to foster US leadership while protecting security. 

The Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS), chaired by Susan Fiske, FABBS past-president, also met this past week. Jennifer Eberhardt, Stanford University, presented on her book Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think and Do. The BBCSS also heard from John Haaga, Director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research in the National Institute on Aging, who will soon be retiring from NIH. Marc Sebrechts, director of the Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, NSF, provided an update on the Repositioning of the Social, Behavioral and Economics Directorate at NSF. The meeting culminated with a presentation from Cynthia Null, NASA – and first executive director of FABBS – on human factors in aviation safety.