FABBS Comments on CoSTEM Strategic Plan, Encouraging Inclusion of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences

October 22, 2020

The National Science Foundation (NSF), on behalf of the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM), issued a Request for Information (RFI) regarding the implementation of Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education, the Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan.

While the behavioral and cognitive sciences are widely considered to be STEM disciplines, the 2019 Progress Report on the Federal Implementation of the STEM Education Strategic Plan excludes these disciplines in their definition on page 5:

“While various definitions of “STEM” exist, for the purposes of this inventory, STEM includes physical and natural sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science disciplines, topics, or issues (including environmental science, environmental stewardship, artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, and cybersecurity).”

The omission of the behavioral and cognitive sciences is particularly poorly conceived given the explicit mention of environmental stewardship and artificial intelligence – both heavily reliant on behavioral and cognitive research. In the comments, FABBS highlighted the relevance of our disciplines as they relate to the goals of the CoSTEM strategic plan and encouraged NSTC to revisit their narrow definition to be consistent with other federal agencies supporting science.

Philip Rubin, Ph.D., FABBS President-Elect and former Principal Assistant Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, explained: “Technology and the interdisciplinary nature of science have evolved — so too must our understanding and definition of ‘science’ and the scientific enterprise. As we continue to learn about unintentional, systematic bias in algorithmic approaches in artificial intelligence and related areas such as predictive analytics and facial recognition, the impact of human behavior on the environment including decision making and risk assessment, as well as the advances in the rigor and use of computational methods in the behavioral and cognitive sciences, it is no longer acceptable nor productive to ignore the importance of these fields when discussing STEM.”

FABBS member, the American Educational Research Association, also submitted comments.