Science Champion Rep. Fattah Kicks off FABBS' Annual Meeting

December 17, 2013

by Chris Cameron

1-DSCN0907.JPGCongressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA, pictured) kicked off the annual meeting of the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences (FABBS), proclaiming that “the spirit of our economy is in science and innovation.” Fattah highlighted points from his Fattah Neuroscience Initiative, which envisions the creation of a scientific “superhighway” encompassing the full range of research on the brain. Fattah emphasized a need to increase investment in science to remain globally competitive and encouraged scientists to “show that the age of discovery is not over,” and promote the benefits of science to everyday living.

Fattah’s leadership on the Appropriations Committee along with the Fattah Neuroscience Initiative led to the establishment of the Interagency Working Group on Neuroscience (IWGN) by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at the White House. The Fattah Neuroscience Initiative also served as an impetus to the White House Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies or BRAIN Initiative.

The IWGN and the BRAIN Initiative are part of a constellation of activities -- the White House Neuroscience Initiative -- coordinated by OSTP and overseen by Dr. Philip Rubin, Principal Assistant Director for Science in the OSTP, who also presented at the FABBS Annual Meeting. Rubin described these and additional programs within the White House Neuroscience Initiative, including efforts to address Alzheimer’s disease; access to mental health services for veterans, service members and their families; national conversation on mental health; and neuroethics. The White House Neuroscience Initiative aims to coordinate efforts within the Federal government and with outside stakeholders to develop “significant, transformative discoveries in fundamental and translational neuroscience and cognitive science,” Rubin said.

Rounding out the day were representatives from The National Research Council (NRC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and National Science Foundation (NSF), presenting initiatives in brain and behavioral sciences and trends for the future.

Dr. Barbara Wanchisen, Director of the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS) and the Board on Human-Systems Integration provided updates on NRC projects. The non-profit NRC produces around 200 policy reports a year. Current and upcoming projects include revisions to the Common Rule for the Protection of Human Subjects; creation of How People Learn II; and a consensus study on The Healthy, Active Brain across the Life Course: Separating Fact from Fiction.

Dr. Robert Kaplan, Associate Director for Behavioral and Social Sciences and Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) at the NIH, noted that biomedical research faces funding challenges both within our country and compared to others around the world. Within this fiscal climate, OBSSR continues planning the next generation of research including new strategies in methods and measures; enhancing health and lengthening life in diverse populations; and training future investigators.

Dr. Joanne Tornow, Acting Assistant Director for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences at NSF emphasized that human behavior is at the center of SBE research efforts. Tornow discussed details of the IWGN and The Brain Initiative™ and current NSF activities aimed at increasing interdisciplinary collaborations, promoting transformative research at multiple levels, developing “novel conceptual and theoretical frameworks for future brain research,” and identifying priorities.

FABBS thanks these distinguished professionals for their support and commitment to our sciences and for sharing their time to engage with our Board and Council Representatives.