Federal Funding for Psychological Research

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APA advocates for robust and predictable funding of scientific research at the federal science agencies.

What We Advocate For

Past Congresses — including members of both chambers and all political affiliations — have viewed scientific research as an important and necessary investment. APA urges the 115th Congress to stand for science by taking the following actions:

Funding of Federal Research Agencies

Support significant, sustained increases in FY 2018 appropriations for research budgets of the NIH, NSF, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Justice, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Department of Education. 

Oppose cuts to NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate in any new reauthorizations, and oppose any amendments that single out social and behavioral science projects for cuts or additional or different standards of review from the rest of the Foundation.

End Sequestration

Support an end to sequestration and take a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not rely solely on discretionary spending cuts. 

The broken budget process is a real threat to science in the U.S. Although the Bipartisan Budget Act provided much needed boosts to the federal science agencies for FY 2016 and 2017, sequestration returns in 2018, jeopardizing the sustainability of these increases.

Support Non-Partisan Agency Operations

Allow federal scientists to travel to scientific meetings; empower agencies to choose which scientific advisers are most appropriate; and refrain from imposing partisan or ideological tests on research results. 

Federal science agencies must be permitted to make the most of their budgets and missions by having the management flexibility and resources to fulfill their charge to the public.

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Recent APA Advocacy Related to Federal Funding

May 2018

Science Student Council Visits Capitol Hill to Call for Psychological Science Funding

On Friday, April 11, 2018, the APA Science Student Council (SSC) headed to Capitol Hill for an advocacy day to make the case for psychological science funding at the federal science agencies. The SSC is comprised of nine graduate student members, each representing a different area across the breadth of research disciplines within psychology.

SSC members started their morning with an advocacy training from APA’s Science government relations staff to prepare them for their afternoon of meetings on Capitol Hill. During their meetings they advocated for strong, stable and predictable funding in fiscal year 2019 for the federal agencies that fund social and behavioral science, particularly the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. In support of this request, SSC members described their research, much of which is federally funded. Additionally, the students advocated support of this research by opposing legislation that singles out specific social and behavioral science grants or entire programs of research for cuts. SSC members met with a total of 13 congressional offices that represent their home districts and states.

May 2018

Psychologist Participates in Coalition for National Science Funding Annual Exhibit on Capitol Hill

APA participated in the 24th Annual Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) Exhibition as part of an all-day event aimed at increasing congressional awareness of the importance of the National Science Foundation (NSF). To help convey the necessity of NSF’s funding for basic science, APA sponsored a visit by Kate Sweeny, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, whose NSF-funded work examines the effects of waiting and uncertainty on health and wellbeing. Sweeny joined 32 interdisciplinary exhibitors at the exhibition to discuss her research with federal officials.

Sweeny and APA staff met with a number of congressional offices to describe her research with patients, law school graduates, and others experiencing uncertainty waiting for news or results, and how this experience gets “under the skin” to disrupt health, including sleep and immunity. She went on to explain how small improvements in communications between patients and healthcare providers and in health information technology could reduce these health effects.

July 2017

Coalitions Sign Letter Urging Bipartisan Budget Agreement

APA is a member of several of the coalitions that signed a July 18, 2017 letter encouraging Congressional leaders to pass a bipartisan budget agreement that increases the spending caps for both defense and non-defense discretionary programs. The letter noted that a bipartisan budget agreement is needed to maintain robust federal investments in America’s scientific and innovation enterprise. It went on to say the United States must make federal investment in science a national priority to remain a global leader in science and innovation. 

Coalitions that signed the letter, and which APA is a member of, include the Friends of the Institute of Education Sciences, the Friends of National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

October 2016

APA Spotlights Imbalance in Funding Priorities at the National Institute of Mental Health

APA organized and sponsored a Capitol Hill congressional briefing on “Future Directions in Mental Health Research: The View from Psychological Science” in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4, 2016. The event drew more than 100 congressional staff, federal agency officials and advocates from scientific and professional organizations. A primary aim of the event was to address the direction of funding priorities at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Though NIMH is the principal source of federal funding for mental health research, there is some concern that the heavy emphasis on biological approaches at NIMH in recent years has crowded out funding for research that pursues psychological and other behavioral and social scientific approaches. A video recording of the briefing is available.

Howard Kurtzman, PhD, APA's acting executive director for science, moderated the briefing and delivered remarks on the need for research funding policies to take a broader approach by considering an integrated, multi-level understanding of human behavior, mental health and mental disorder. Featured speakers were Patricia Areán, PhD, of the University of Washington; William Hetrick, PhD, of Indiana University; and Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles.

July 2016

Public Health Fair on Capitol Hill Shines Spotlight on Federally Funded Health Research

The Coalition for Health Funding held its first ever Public Health Fair on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, July 13, 2016, to both advocate for robust, sustained funding for the federal health agencies and demonstrate the value of these investments. The fair featured representatives of more than 40 national health organizations, including APA, and its six federal public health service agencies. APA's invited exhibitor, Bethany Teachman, PhD, of the University of Virginia's Program for Anxiety, Cognition, and Treatment lab, brought along one of her lab's live tarantulas to demonstrate her NIMH-funded research on anxiety and spider phobia. The engaging exhibit wowed attendees, including Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Va., and Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va. — a co-chair of the Congressional Public Health Caucus. 

The Coalition for Health Funding's Public Health Fair successfully illustrated the value of federally funded health research aimed at developing evidence-based interventions, as well as implementing and disseminating those interventions to make them more widely accessible to the public.

April 2016

APA Groups Visit Capitol Hill to Advocate for Psychological Science Funding

On Thursday, April 21, 2016, the APA Science Student Council (SSC) headed to Capitol Hill for an advocacy day to make the case for psychological science funding at the federal science agencies. SSC is a council of nine graduate students — each representing an area among the breadth of research disciplines within psychology.

In their meetings, SSC members described their research, much of which is federally funded, and advocated strong, stable and predictable funding in fiscal year 2017 for the federal agencies that fund social and behavioral science, especially the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. In addition, the students advocated support of this research by opposing legislation that singles out social and behavioral science grants or entire programs of research for cuts or further attacks. In total, SSC members met with 16 congressional offices that cover their universities’ home districts and states

September 2015

Early Math Education Research Featured on Capitol Hill

On Sept. 25, 2015, APA co-sponsored a congressional briefing titled “Building Strength in Numbers: How do Early Interventions in Math Instruction Add Up?” The briefing highlighted educational and psychological research on early math education funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the research arm of the Department of Education. The briefing was held, in part, to educate congressional staff about the importance of IES-funded research during a time when both House and Senate appropriations bills proposed significant decreases to the IES budget.
April 2015

Forensic Science Expert Presents findings on Capitol Hill

On April 29, 2015, APA sponsored two events on Capitol Hill, both featuring psychologist Saul Kassin and his research on false confessions and wrongful convictions. Kassin is a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In the afternoon, on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, APA hosted a briefing by Kassin for congressional staff, federal agency staff, and representatives of other organizations interested in forensic science, civil rights and the criminal justice system. Titled “Why Innocents Confess and Why Confessions Trump Innocence,” the briefing offered a framework for how psychological scientists study the issue with methodological rigor as well as concrete policy recommendations to improve the gathering of accurate information in law enforcement settings. 

Kassin also represented APA later that evening at the 21st annual Coalition for National Science Funding exhibit and reception on the House side of Capitol Hill. The event, which focused this year on “Investments in STEM Research Education: Fueling American Innovation” and covered the entire range of disciplines funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), was attended by members of Congress and their staffs.

We have a tremendous opportunity to help shape the laws and policies that directly affect psychology and the populations we work with. We can make a real difference in our society.
—Melba Vasquez, PhD, ABPP, 2011 APA President

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APA represents the largest and most visible national presence advocating for psychology at the federal level. There are three APA government relations offices and two APA-affiliated organizations that engage in government relations activities. 

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