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Research Groups Plan Advocacy Path

For education research organizations, responding to President Trump's budget proposal will mean a tricky balance of building widespread support while keeping a low profile.

"We've had a laser-like focus on the Congress," said Wendy Naus, executive director of the Consortium of Social Science Associations. "Now that we know what the [Trump] administration's positions are, we can really hit the ground running ... and at least know what we're up against."

The White House budget proposal for fiscal 2018 would keep spending roughly the same for most of the Education Department's research arm, the Institute for Education Sciences, but it would deliver cuts to several major education and child development research areas in the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. 

Social sciences took a slightly bigger hit than average in research, but Naus said she was relieved that the administration did not seem to actively target specific types of research; science in general was cut. 

"At least feel we won't become the bank for other investments," she said. "We have to constantly remind people that flat is the new up and that if you don't have a target on you, you are doing OK."

Quietly Building Support

That creates a dilemna, though. Avoiding becoming a target usually means keeping a low profile, but the scientific community is also trying to leverage turnout from last month's March for Science, which drew more than 100,000 marchers nationwide in support of science funding and use in policymaking. 

"We want to engender a bipartisan effort for how important science is," said Felice Levine, executive director of the American Edcuational Research Association. "The steady state of funding over the last decade is still a loss. ... We need to invest. Science is the sensible use of dollars; we need to get that message across."

To do so, Levine said AERA will continue and expand a cross-country lecture tour started this year, to get local researchers to talk about the research around hot policy topics, like early childhood education and school discipline. Both AERA and COSSA are planning for researchers to visit Congress members' staff during the Memorial Day recess, to voice support for research.

"We believe advocacy is really coupled with education quite broadly," Levine said. "Part of what we need to responsibly do in our field and other fields of science ... is to create opportunities for community conversation around why research matters in your schools, for your kids—having education research appreciated as not just an inside-the-Beltway issue but an outside-the-beltway issue."

Going forward, Levine, Naus and others said they are fairly confident of congressional support for research, in the short term at least.

"The big question mark that will need to be sorted out this year is what to do with the [federal] budget caps," Naus said. "That's where our concern really is, because otherwise we are still dealing with a zero-sum game and those caps will continue to push spending down even more as the years go by."


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