The U.S. Senate is now deliberating a bill that will fund the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its research programs for 2013. Reports indicate that the Senate will finish its work by the end of June. What makes this legislative process of particular import is that last month the House of Representatives passed a version of the bill that would eliminate funding for political science research. (The provision was offered by Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who said the provision was “oriented toward ensuring, at the least, that the NSF does not waste taxpayer dollars on a meritless program.”) And, just last week Washington Post columnist Charles Lane called for the elimination of all NSF funding for social science research.
We don’t want to be alarmist, but this situation seems pretty serious and is beginning to be something of a pattern. Recall that last year we saw similar threats to defund the entire Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) at NSF.
The American Sociological Association is urging its members to write their senators in support of social science research funded by NSF. (Click here for more information or see the text of sample letter below.) We usually try to keep politics and advocacy to a minimum here at TSP, but the one thing we are unabashedly advocates of is the value and social necessity of social science. No matter what you do or don’t do, and whether you are a professional social scientist, this is one issue to stay tuned to.
The ASA’s Sample Letter
As a sociologist and member of the American Sociological Association, I am deeply concerned about the National Science Foundation’s FY 2013 funding level and the implicit attack on scientific peer review. I urge you to provide robust funding for the Foundation and protect the integrity of the scientific enterprise that has benefited this country for so long.
Research funded by the National Science Foundation is a critical part of the research infrastructure in the United States, providing approximately 20% of all federally supported fundamental research conducted in America’s colleges and universities. NSF is the only federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering—including sociology, political science, and economics. The agency identifies the most promising ideas for advancing science through a rigorous and objective merit review process that uses independent scientific review panels.
The U.S. House recently voted to eliminate funding for all fundamental research in political science. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), “NSF political science research grants have contributed to important research on democratization, radicalization and terrorism, disaster response, and voting behavior.”
I urge you to oppose any efforts to eliminate funding for particular areas of science NSF’s when the appropriations bill reaches the Senate floor. In addition, I urge you to encourage your colleagues to restore funding to political science programs when NSF’s appropriations bill moves to conference committee.
NSF-funded research advances the frontiers of knowledge that keep the United States safe and competitive. In addition its research provides our nation with an understanding of humans and human behavior, which is used as a foundation for all successful technologies.
Please vote to protect the integrity of the scientific process by ensuring that NSF’s independent expert panels determine the best scientific ideas. I look forward to your response.