Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon) signed on to a “Dear Colleague” letter from members of Congress to Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in support of funding for behavioral and social science research, including economics, at the NIH. “Dear Colleague” letters are a tool that members of Congress use to raise awareness or show support for an issue. The NIH letter is intended to show support for social science research during a time when funding for such research has come under increased scrutiny by some members of Congress.
According to the letter, “scientific discovery requires support of basic, applied, and translational research across a range of academic disciplines, including the behavioral and social sciences. The underlying causes of diseases and disabilities are complex. Many factors, including genetic, social, biological, environmental, and behavioral, must be understood and unraveled to fully appreciate how these conditions occur and can be prevented and treated effectively across different populations. The social sciences are instrumental to this progress, and researchers from economics, psychology, sociology, demography, history, geography, communications and political science, have all made contributions that build our collective knowledge on the determinants of health and provide the foundation for future policy action.”
The letter also addresses the impact of NIH funding of economic research: “NIH funded economics research also has global implications. For example, James Heckman, a Nobel Prize winning, NIH-funded economist, demonstrated that early interventions in the cognitive and socio-emotional development of disadvantaged children have much higher economic returns than interventions that occur later in life. This research has improved the health of children around the world.”
In total, 83 members of Congress signed on to the letter.