APS Past President Morton Ann Gernsbacher has been appointed to the Advisory Committee for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) at the National Science Foundation. As the only federal science agency dedicated solely to supporting basic research, NSF occupies an irreplaceable niche in the world of science funding. With an annual budget of about $6.06 billion, NSF funds about 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted at American colleges and universities. Its SBE Directorate was established in 1995 and funds basic research in human cognition, social behavior, language development, learning, and behavioral neuroscience, among other topics, with $214 million in Fiscal Year 2008. APS was instrumental in creating this Directorate with many rounds of Congressional action in the early 1990s, and today the Directorate is flourishing with ever-expanding programs on the cutting edge of basic science.
The advisory panel provides advice, recommendations, and oversight concerning support for research, education, and human resources. As a member of the advisory committee, Gernsbacher will provide guidance on research directions in the disciplines and fields encompassed by the SBE Directorate, provide oversight of overall program management and performance, and advise as to the impact of overall NSF-wide policies on the SBE scientific community. Leading scientists from a variety of fields, ranging from geology to sociology to economics, make up the SBE Advisory Committee. In addition to Gernsbacher, APS Member David Poeppel, who specializes in speech perception at the University of Maryland, also serves on the committee.
Gernsbacher, a Vilas Research Professor & Sir Frederic Bartlett Professor at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, has continually distinguished herself through her research on the cognitive processes and mechanisms that underlie language comprehension. Her findings have shown that language processing draws on general cognitive processes rather than language-specific mechanisms. Recently, she has applied her study of language to the study of autism, finding that children with autism often cannot speak because of motor planning challenges, dispelling popular notions that their speech impairment is the result of the social impairment that comes with autism or of intellectual limitations.