Congress Highlighting the Value of Behavioral, Social, and Economic Sciences Across Topics

July 9, 2020

Capitol Hill is working tirelessly to address pressing issues such as COVID-19; racism; and balancing international collaboration and security threats while also advancing reauthorization of the National Science Foundation and other perennial priorities. In both chambers, and on both sides of the aisle, members of Congress and witnesses have pointed to the importance of behavior and social science in addressing these priorities.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on June 30thHigh Anxiety and Stress: Legislation to Improve Mental Health During Crisis.” Members examined several pieces of legislation to improve access to mental health services during COVID-19.  Witnesses included Dr. Arthur C. Evans, Jr. CEO of the American Psychological Association (FABBS member society).

A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Police Use of Force and Community Relations called for reforms to our nation’s policing policies and practices. Witnesses included social psychologist and member of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (FABBS member society) Phillip Abita Goff, PhD, CEO and founder of the Center for Policing Equity. The hearing corresponds to the recent legislative developments of the introduction of the JUSTICE Act in the Senate and the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 in both chambers.

House and Senate Committees have also held hearings on improving policing. In the House, Science Committee Chairwoman Johnson (TX) introduced The Promoting Fair and Effective Policing Through Research Act. This legislation directs the National Science Foundation to:

  • Invest in behavioral and social research on policing policies, including the causes, consequences, and mitigation of police violence;
  • support collaborative partnerships between social science researchers, law enforcement agencies, and civil society organizations; and
  • fund a National Academies study to identify research gaps related to law enforcement policies, collect promising practices, and make recommendations for advancing research and implementation of proven solutions.

The House Committee on the Budget held a virtual hearing on the federal government’s role in research and development (R&D) and American innovation and recovery on July 8th. In his testimony, AAAS CEO Sudip Parikh explicitly cited the importance of the social sciences to inform the evidence base for policymaking, and the importance of providing transparency. Dr. Parikh also recommended that the U.S. invest 1.9 percent of the GDP in R&D, which would translate to an 11 percent increase to research budgets.

In addition, Representatives Dan Lipinski (IL) and David McKinley (WV) introduced the Social Sciences Protect Our Nation Act (H.R. 7106). This bipartisan proposal promotes the importance of Department of Defense social science research, including the Minerva Research Initiative, which provides grants to fund university research to advance our understanding of cultural, political, and social dynamics of security.