SBE Advisory Committee Highlights FABBS Work

The Advisory Committee (AC) for the Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) Sciences Directorate at the National Science Foundation met on December 2 and 3 for a packed agenda. Dominique Brossard, University of Wisconsin-Madison, serves as the chair and started the meeting by welcoming new members Marie Banich, the Executive Director of the Intermountain Neuroimaging Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder and Robin Leichenko, a geographer at Rutgers University.

Arthur “Skip” Lupia, Assistant Director (AD) for SBE, reviewed upcoming and recent changes to SBE leadership. Lupia will be completing his rotation at the end of December and returning to the University of Michigan. NSF is actively searching for his replacement. The Dear Colleague inviting applications for the position remains active on their website, despite the indicated deadline of October 8. NSF is likely to appoint Dr. Kellina Craig-Henderson, Deputy AD, SBE, to serve as the acting AD until Lupia’s replacement is named.

Senior Advisor Deborah Olster is retiring at the end of the year. Alan Tompkins is serving as the acting director of the Social and Economic Sciences Division following the recent departure of Danny Goroff who had completed his rotation at SBE. We anticipate that a permanent candidate will be named shortly. Additionally, a search is active for the Director of the Behavioral and Cognitive Science Division, as Marc Sebrechts will complete his rotation in the summer of 2022. It was also announced that AC member and FABBS board member Sandra Graham will serve as the SBE liaison to the Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering.

FABBS encourages our members to consider applying for these important rotator positions at NSF.

The meeting highlighted one development of particular interest to FABBS members: the expansion of eligibility for the NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM). Olster provided some history and an update, explaining that program was initially established in 1998 to cultivate U.S. talent in critical scientific areas by offering scholarships “to enable low-income students with academic ability, talent or potential to pursue successful careers in promising STEM fields.” Earlier solicitations named specific S-STEM fields, and social and behavioral science did not make the list: “Eligible programs of study are the biological sciences (except medicine and other clinical fields), physical sciences, mathematical sciences, computer and information sciences, the geosciences, and engineering, as well as technology areas associated with the preceding fields (FR Doc. 05-2602).” The most recent solicitation makes all fields supported by NSF eligible and now includes social and behavioral science in the outreach efforts.

During her presentation to the SBE AC, Olster thanked FABBS for bringing the S-STEM eligibility limitations to the attention of SBE leadership and working to actualize the inclusion of our sciences. Now the challenge is to make our departments and universities aware of these changes and for institutions to translate the eligibility expansion to scholarships for students in our fields. (See SocialScienceSpace article)

SBE leadership provided updates on a range of other activities and opportunities. Lupia shared a budget update with the encouraging news that in recent years, NSF has been increasing the investment in our sciences.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2018FY 2019FY 2020FY 2021
$251 million$271 million$280 million$306 million
Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate Budget

Presentations shared progress on several initiatives including Build and Broaden, Strengthening American Infrastructure, 2022 Science and Engineering Indicators, America’s Data Hub and COVID-19 activities including an update about the Societal Experts Action Network.

The meeting provided updates from leadership of other NSF directorates and discussions of opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations. AC members heard about the proposed new directorate of Technology, Innovation and Partnerships and about opportunities for collaboration between SBE and the Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE).