Advisory Committee for SBE Meets, Discusses Goals and Challenges

December 18, 2019

The fall meeting of the NSF Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Advisory Committee took place on December 12-13. This committee meets twice yearly to provide advice, recommendations, and oversight to the Directorate concerning support for research, education, and human resources.

The meeting began with Arthur “Skip” Lupia, Assistant Director, SBE, reviewing the directorate goals of advancing science, growing the economy, enhancing safety and security, and most of all improving the quality of life of people everywhere. One of his aims is to be more aggressive on communications to inform people of what SBE does and its importance. This is encapsulated by one of SBE’s mottos, “Your Life. Our Work.” Lupia also would like to build and broaden the SBE sciences, creating partnerships with minority serving institutions and strengthening the infrastructure of research, incorporating SBE research before studies begin, to reduce implicit bias, or other behavioral factors. He spoke with excitement about what he refers to as the “crown jewel of NSF,” the National Center of Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), which is a wealth of data on the science and engineering enterprise.

Nilanjana “Buju” Dasgupta, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and member of Society for Experimental Social Psychology (SESP) and Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), gave an overview of the report from the Committee of Visitors (COV), which she co-chaired. The purpose of a COV is to conduct external reviews of NSF program management. Dasgupta reported that all 11 programs within the Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) division of SBE were robust, effective, and professional, but that BCS could be highlighted more within SBE given its substantial contributions. There were further recommendations with regards to increasing the diversity on review panels, and in primary investigators (PIs). Dasgupta recommended more proactive outreach to new PIs and those from smaller institutions whose proposals were declined, to give clearer guidance on resubmissions. Sandra Graham, University of California, and FABBS Board Member, echoed that comments from panels should aim to be useful to declined PIs and perhaps that system should be reviewed if they are not helpful.

The first day of meetings also included a discussion about the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report, Reproducibility and Replicability in Science; a well-attended lunch lecture by Jennifer Lerner, Harvard University, and member of FABBS societies American Psychological Association, SESP, and Society for Judgment and Decision Making; and breakout sessions discussing collaboration of SBE with the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Directorate and SBE’s role in national security.

On December 16 SBE released Dear Colleague Letter: SBE Perspectives on Graduate Education. The goal of the letter is to inform the SBE community of graduate education funding opportunities in the Directorate for Education & Human Resources (EHR) and SBE.