NASEM SEAN Holds Fall Symposium 

October 27, 2022 

Earlier this month, the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) brought together behavioral and social scientists, state and local decision makers, and non-profit organizations that support them to reflect on the effectiveness of the Society Experts Action Network and to consider future ways for SEAN to facilitate the incorporation of the behavioral and social sciences into decision making. SEAN, with support from the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate at the National Science Foundation, was stood up early in the COVID pandemic. Traditionally, NAS activities think of the federal government as their audience, whereas SEAN documents have been drafted for state and local decision makers.

The first panel, The COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons for the Use of SBE Sciences, was chaired by Wendy Wood, University of Southern California, who serves on the SEAN Executive Committee. The session featured Katherine Milkman, University of Pennsylvania and former FABBS Council representative for the Society for Judgement and Decision Making. Dr. Milkman described how the Behavior Change for Good Initiative partnered with the City of Philadelphia to test the impact of geographically targeted vaccine lotteries and ran a mega study, in collaboration with vaccine distribution sites, to test message. The project tested dozens of messages to determine, and later employ the most effective messaging. The winner – ‘a vaccine has been reserved for you and is waiting to be picked up.’ The other panelists represented state and local policy makers, they noted a lack of embedded behavioral and social expertise within state and local government as well as an unsophisticated understanding of the data, being unfamiliar with the presence of bias including sampling, selection, and recall.  Panelists explained how data was helpful to justify hard decisions however they struggle to build trust in the data and science literacy. 

Michael Hout, New York University, Chair of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE), moderated the second panel Looking Ahead: What is on the Horizon for Decision Makers and How Can the SBE Community Help? Panelist Kristine Goodwin, National Conference of State Legislatures, spoke about the Center for Results Driven Governing, where she serves as the Director. Goodwin described it as the ABCs of evidence in policy making, trying to identify the information that decision makers need and embedding evidence into the process, including state budgeting. Speakers underscored the behavioral and social questions across the biggest challenges facing society – climate change, housing, jobs, and equity, among others – and emphasized the importance of research fitting the various contexts and communicating in ways that are easily digestible.  

Both panels were followed by small group discussions, FABBS was honored to have been invited to facilitate. A full list of speakers and recording of the event is available here.