Civic Engagement and Social Cohesion: Measuring Dimensions of Social Capital to Inform Policy, the final report of the CNSTAT Panel on Measuring Social and Civic Engagement and Social Cohesion in Surveys, was released in prepublication format, June 23, 2014. It is available in PDF; printed copies will be available shortly. The panel was requested by the Corporation for National and Community Service and chaired by Kenneth Prewitt (Columbia University).
The Report in Brief—
People's bonds, associations and networks—as well as the civil, political, and institutional characteristics of the society in which they live—can be powerful drivers affecting the quality of life among a community's, a city's, or a nation's inhabitants and their ability to achieve both individual and societal goals. Civic engagement, social cohesion, and other dimensions of social capital affect social, economic and health outcomes for individuals and communities. Can these be measured, and can federal surveys contribute toward this end? Can this information be collected elsewhere, and if so, how should it be collected? With the needs of data users in mind, Civic Engagement and Social Cohesion examines conceptual frameworks developed in the literature to determine promising measures and measurement methods for informing public policy discourse. The report provides working definitions of key terms; advises on the feasibility and specifications of indicators relevant to analyses of social, economic, and health domains; and assesses the strength of the evidence regarding the relationship between these indicators and observed trends in crime, employment, and resilience to shocks such as natural disasters. It weighs the relative merits of surveys, administrative records, and non-government data sources, and considers the appropriate role of the federal statistical system, making recommendations to improve the measurement of civic health through government surveys and identifying priority areas for research, development, and implementation.
Issues in Returning Individual Results from Genome Research Using Population-Banked Specimens, with a Focus on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey: A Workshop Summary, was released in prepublication format, June 19, 2014. It is available in PDF; printed copies will be available shortly. The workshop was requested by the National Center for Health Statistics and chaired by Wylie Burke (University of Washington).
The Report in Brief—
Population surveys traditionally collect information from respondents from questionnaires, but, in recent years, many surveys have also been collecting biologic specimens such as blood samples, saliva, and buccal swabs, from which a respondent's DNA can be ascertained along with other biomarkers (e.g., the level of a certain protein in the blood). NHANES has been collecting and storing genetic specimens since 1991, and other surveys, such as the Health and Retirement Study funded by the National Institute on Aging, have followed suit. In order to give their informed consent to participate in a survey, respondents need to know the disposition and use of their data. Will their responses be used for one research project and then destroyed, or will they be archived for secondary use? The addition of biologic specimens to a survey not only adds complications for storing, protecting, and providing access to such data for secondary research, but also raises questions of whether, when, and for which biologic measurements the results should be reported back to individual respondents. Recently, the cost of full genomic sequencing has plummeted, and research findings are beginning to accumulate that bear up under replication and that potentially have clinical implications for a respondent. Biomedical research studies, in which participants are asked to donate tissues for genetic studies and are usually told that they will not be contacted with any results, are increasingly confronting the issue of when and which DNA results to return to participants. Issues in Returning Individual Results from Genome Research Using Population-Based Banked Specimens, with a Focus on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey is the summary of a CNSTAT workshop convened in February 2013. The workshop sessions discussed to what extent and how population surveys, in particular NHANES, should implement the reporting of results from genomic research using stored specimens and address informed consent for future data collection as well as for the use of banked specimens covered by prior informed consent agreements.
The National Children’s Study 2014: An Assessment, the final report of the CNSTAT and Board on Children, Youth, and Families Panel on the Design of the National Children’s Study and Implications for the Generalizability of Results, was released in prepublication format, June 16, 2014. It is available in PDF; printed copies will be available shortly. The panel was requested by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in response to a congressional mandate and chaired by Greg Duncan (University of California, Irvine).
The Report in Brief—
The National Children's Study (NCS) was authorized by the Children's Health Act of 2000 and is being implemented by a dedicated Program Office in NICHD. The NCS is planned to be a longitudinal observational birth cohort study to evaluate the effects of chronic and intermittent exposures on child health and development in the United States, collecting a broad range of data for a national probability sample of about 100,000 children, followed from birth or before birth to age 21. Detailed plans for the NCS were developed by 2007 and reviewed by a CNSTAT/BCYF panel. At that time, sample recruitment for the NCS Main Study was scheduled to begin in 2009 and to be completed within about 5 years. However, results from the initial seven pilot locations, which recruited sample cases in 2009-2010, indicated that the proposed household-based recruitment approach would be more costly and time consuming than planned. In response, the Program Office implemented pilot tests in 2011 to evaluate alternative recruitment methods. At the request of Congress, The National Children's Study 2014 reviews the revised study design and proposed methods for the NCS Main Study to determine if they are likely to produce scientifically sound results that are generalizable to the U.S. population and appropriate subpopulations. The report makes recommendations about the overall study framework, sample design, timing, content, and need for scientific expertise and oversight, noting that the NCS has the potential to add immeasurably to knowledge of the effects of environmental factors, broadly defined, on children in the United States. In response to the report’s conclusions and recommendations, the NIH director has put the NCS Main Study on hold until further notice.
Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Spaceflight, the final report of the Committee on Human Spaceflight, was released in prepublication format, June 4, 2014. It is available in PDF; printed copies will be available shortly. The study was requested by NASA in response to a congressional mandate and co-chaired by Mitchell Daniels (Purdue University) and Jonathan Lunine (Cornell University). Roger Tourangeau chaired a Panel on Public and Stakeholder Opinion that provided input to the main committee (see Chapter 3and Appendixes B-E of the report).
The Report in Brief—
The United States has publicly funded its human spaceflight program on a continuous basis for more than a half-century from the early Mercury and Gemini suborbital and Earth orbital missions, to the lunar landings, and thence to the first reusable winged crewed space plane. Today the United States is the major partner in a massive orbital facility, the International Space Station, which is becoming the focal point for the first tentative steps in commercial cargo and crewed orbital space flights. And yet, the long-term future of human spaceflight beyond this project is unclear. Pronouncements by multiple presidents of bold new ventures by Americans to the Moon, to Mars, and to an asteroid in its native orbit, have not been matched by the substantial increase in NASA funding needed to make it happen. Pathways to Exploration explores the case for advancing this endeavor, drawing on the history of rationales for human spaceflight, examining the attitudes of stakeholders and the public, and carefully assessing the technical and fiscal realities. The report recommends maintaining a long-term focus on Mars as the horizon goal for human space exploration. With this goal in mind, the report considers funding levels necessary to maintain a robust tempo of execution, current research and exploration projects and the time/resources needed to continue them, and international cooperation that could contribute to the achievement of spaceflight to Mars. According to Pathways to Exploration, a successful U.S. program would require sustained national commitment and a budget that increases by more than the rate of inflation.
Capturing Change in Science, Technology, and Innovation: Improving Indicators to Inform Policy, the final report of the CNSTAT and Board on Science, Economic, and Technology Policy Panel on Developing Science, Technology, and Innovation Indicators for the Future, was released in prepublication form, November 25, 2013. It is available in PDF; printed copies will be available shortly. The panel was requested by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) and co-chaired by Robert Litan (Bloomberg Government) and Andrew Wyckoff (OECD).
The Report in Brief—
Since the 1950s, under congressional mandate, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF)— through NCSES and its predecessors—has produced regularly updated measures of research and development expenditures, employment and training in science and engineering, and other indicators of the state of U.S. science and technology. A more recent focus has been on measuring innovation in the corporate sector. NCSES not only collects its own data on science, technology, and innovation (STI) activities, but also incorporates data from other agencies to produce indicators that are used for monitoring purposes— including comparisons among sectors, regions, and with other countries—and for identifying trends that may require policy attention and generate research needs. NCSES provides extensive tabulations and microdata files for in-depth analysis. Capturing Change in Science, Technology, and Innovation provides recommendations about the need for revised, refocused, and newly developed indicators of STI activities that would enable NCSES to respond to changing policy concerns. The report identifies both existing and potential data resources and tools that NCSES could exploit to further develop its indicators program. Finally, the report considers strategic pathways for NCSES to move forward with an improved STI indicators program that will enhance NCSES's ability to produce indicators that capture change in science, technology, and innovation to inform policy and optimally meet the needs of its user community.
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