Lamar Smith (R-TX) attacks NSF criteria for funding guidelines singling out political science research with caveat for economic or national security projects. This sets a disturbing precedent for agency guidelines in general. Why is Congressman Smith so threatened by social science research? Why single out one academic discipline’s possible research agenda? The following is an excerpt from an interview of one member of the science committee in Science Magazine:
Smith’s request to NSF didn’t sit well with the top Democrat on the science committee, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). On Friday, she sent a blistering missive to Smith questioning his judgment and his motives.
“In the history of this committee, no chairman has ever put themselves forward as an expert in the science that underlies specific grant proposals funded by NSF,” Johnson wrote in a letter obtained by ScienceInsider. “I have never seen a chairman decide to go after specific grants simply because the chairman does not believe them to be of high value.”
In her letter, Johnson warns Smith that “the moment you compromise both the merit review process and the basic research mission of NSF is the moment you undo everything that has enabled NSF to contribute so profoundly to our national health, prosperity, and welfare.” She asks him to “withdraw” his letter and offers to work with him “to identify a less destructive, but more effective, effort” to make sure NSF is meeting that mission.
Smith’s bill would require NSF’s oversight body, the National Science Board, to monitor the director’s actions and issue a report in a year. It also asks Holdren’s office to tell Congress how the principles laid down in the legislation “may be implemented in other Federal science agencies.”
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