APS's Susan Persons to Chair Child Research Coalition

WASHINGTON, DC-APS Director of Government Relations Susan Persons has been elected chair of a Washington, DC-based alliance of nearly 100 organizations who advocate on behalf of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a federal research agency that funds a significant amount of psychology research. Persons has been a member of the coalition for three years, during which time she has worked to highlight behavioral and social science in her advocacy on behalf of the Institute.

The Friends of NICHD, as the ten-year-old coalition is known, is a diverse group of scientists, health professionals, and other loyal constituents of the Institute who advocate in Congress for an increased budget for NICHD. Among other things, the group provides information to Congress about new and exciting scientific discoveries supported by the Institute. Besides visiting members of Congress and their staffs, the coalition often testifies before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, which determine the annual budget for NICHD.

Enthusiastic Response

NICHD Director Duane Alexander responded with enthusiasm upon hearing the election results. “We have long appreciated the support for the Institute that APS, Alan [Kraut] and Susan have given over the years on the Hill. We value their dedicated efforts, especially during this period of fiscal restraint.” Alexander is referring to the current budget picture for NICHD and its parent agency, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which, like the rest of the federal government, are threatened with level or reduced budgets.

Persons has substantial experience leading coalitions, and since 1993 has chaired the Coalition for the Advancement of Health through Behavioral and Social Science Research, which supports the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research at NIH. She also established and has helped lead an ad hoc coalition created to oppose the Family Privacy and Protection Act of 1995. Introduced in Congress earlier this year, this legislation has the potential to curtail a number of important social science research activities involving children. (See the July/August 1995 Observer for details.)

NICHD supports research on the prevention and treatment of many of the most insidious health problems facing the nation, including infant mortality and low birth weight, unintended pregnancy, birth defects, mental retardation and other developmental disabilities, and pediatric AIDS. Unlike most other national institutes, NICHD is not disease specific, but, instead, focuses on the entire spectrum of human growth and development. Its five main components are the Center for Research for Mothers and Children; the Center for Population Research; the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research; the Intramural Program; and the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research.

Large Source of Funding

NICHD is one of the largest sources of behavioral and social science funding at NIH. Recently, the Institute launched two “Requests for Applications” (RFAs), the seeds for which were planted through a joint effort in Congress by APS and the Society for Research in Child Development. These initiatives were also supported by the Friends coalition. The first RFA was on normative behavioral research on ethnic minorities, and the other was on middle childhood. Together, these have resulted in a substantial amount of new funding for behavioral research at the Institute.

“I am honored to have been selected by my colleagues to lead this dedicated and effective coalition,” said Persons. “We all believe very strongly in the mission of NICHD, and it will be a pleasure to continue to advocate on behalf of this important institute. Our efforts are needed more than ever, and I want to make sure Congress is fully aware of the essential nature of the research that NICHD supports, including research by psychologists.”

APS Executive Director Alan Kraut said that Persons’ election as chair of the coalition also raises the visibility of psychology and APS in Washington. ”This is a large, well-established coalition that is highly-regarded on Capitol Hill,” he said. “We are delighted that Susan has been chosen to lead this group.”

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