SBE Directorate at NSF holds Spring Advisory Council Meeting

The Social, Behavioral, and Economic Science (SBE) Advisory Committee (AC), convened on May 6 and 7 for a packed agenda covering a wide range of topics of importance to FABBS members. FABBS board member Sandra Graham of UCLA serves on the SBE AC.  

The meeting kicked off with a budget update from Dr. Arthur “Skip” Lupia, National Science Foundation (NSF) Assistant Director. The NSF received additional funds from Congress to award over 1,000 COVID-specific research grants with SBE funding 240 grants totaling $32 million, a considerable proportion of the awards recognizing that the SBE directorate accounts for roughly three percent of the total NSF budget. Dr. Lupia shared that the investment in these fields has increased in recent years.  

FY 2018 $249 Million 
FY 2019 $270 Million 
FY 2020 $279 Million 
FY 2021 $283 Million* 
*This amount does not include ARP funds invested in SBE research; the final number is expected to be closer to $300 Million. 

In addition to being able to compete for funds in the SBE Directorate budget, behavioral and cognitive scientists have the opportunity to apply for interdisciplinary and cross agency research activities, effectively increasing the NSF investment in FABBS fields. (Dr. Lupia previously presented about these opportunities in a FABBS webinar on April 6.) Dr. Marc Sebrechts, Division Director of the Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS), presented new opportunities for SBE scientists including the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (one of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas), Human Networks and Data Science, and Strengthening American Infrastructure

Dr. Antoinette WinklerPrins, Deputy Division Director in SBE, spoke about the Broader Impacts review criteria, bringing attention to additional resources available to NSF grant applicants including a Dear Colleague Letter: A Broader Impacts Framework for Proposals Submitted to NSF’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate shared earlier this spring and Five Useful Tips. Dr. John Finamore, Program Director at the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), shared findings from the 2021 Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineeringreport, a biennial report mandated by Congress on the state of diversity in Science and Engineering. FABBS was one of the organizers for WMPD day on May 12 and hosted a panel, ‘LGBTQ+ and Multiracial Demographics in WMPD: Opportunities and Challenges for Inclusion.’ (A YouTube video recording of the panel can be found here.)

The AC also received updates on the Evidence Act and a National Secure Data Service; a panel of speakers discussed implementation, challenges, the role of the NCSES, and differential privacy. Dr. David Montgomery, Director of the Department of Defense (DOD) Minerva Research Initiative, discussed basic social science research at the DOD and AC members led discussions about the Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education (AC-ERE) and the Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE). The meeting featured a panel on the role of SBE in responding to pandemics. 

Since joining NSF last summer, NSF Director Dr. Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan has met with NSF ACs. Dr. Panch has demonstrated a strong appreciation for the behavioral and social sciences explaining that these disciplines have both a strong vertical (standalone importance) and horizontal (across all disciplines and directorates) presence at NSF. Dr. Panch emphasized the important role of SBE sciences to train future scientists to advance talent and thinking. “If people are not kept in the foreground, it will be detrimental to all of science.”