NSF SBE Advisory Committee Holds Winter Meeting
NSF SBE Advisory Committee Holds Winter Meeting

December  2020

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate Advisory Committee held its winter meeting on December 3–4.The committee heard from SBE and NSF leaders on forthcoming activities and priorities and discussed several topics, including partnerships, SBE-funded research related to COVID-19, and an update on activities by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) in support of the Federal Data Strategy.

SBE Assistant Director Arthur “Skip” Lupia provided an update on SBE activities, highlighting the directorate’s role in groundbreaking research, fundamental data and analytical infrastructure, and essential training. Lupia also highlighted two new initiatives to advance broader participation in science: Build and Broaden 2.0 and BPInnovate. Kellina Craig-Henderson, SBE Deputy Assistant Director, further detailed these initiatives, highlighting the potential of Build and Broaden 2.0 to enhance research capacity at minority-serving institutions, increase research partnerships and collaborations, and support fundamental research to enhance the SBE portfolio.

NSF Director Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan spoke with SBE Advisory Committee members, highlighting his vision and priorities for the agency. He noted that he was grateful for the work that SBE has undertaken in response to COVID-19, and he observed that research centers are increasingly engaged with social and behavioral science. Panchanathan also detailed how the SBE directorate plays a role in different modes of learning and reaching STEM talent everywhere.

Daniel Goroff, director of the SBE Division of Social and Economic Sciences, and Emilda Rivers, director of the NCSES, described efforts in implementing the Federal Data Strategy. Goroff provided an overview of the goals and actions that the federal government has taken so far, and noted the potential that linking and connecting NCSES data to other data sets could have in examining the scientific research enterprise. Rivers highlighted the potential of online data platforms, including resources.data.gov, to help spur innovation and build partnerships.

SBE Advisory Committee members also received an update on social and behavioral research underway to support responses to COVID-19. The SBE Directorate awarded 250 RAPID grants totaling $32 million, including $9.5 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The grants ranged from helping children learn and families adapt, to understanding behavior and decision making response to COVID-19, to strengthening the economy. Specific projects included a study on compliance and precautionary behavior in connection with social distancing measures, and the creation of the Societal Experts Action Network. William Riley, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, discussed NIH support for a COVID-19 survey item repository and grants to support psychosocial recovery.

Additional agenda items included a report from a workshop held with the NSF Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate titled “Harnessing the Computational and Social Sciences to Solve Critical Societal Problems”; an update from the NSF Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education; and new NSF funding opportunities on two topics: “Human Networks and Data Science” and “Strengthening American Infrastructure.”