Obama defends US science from partisan attack

May 9, 2013

President Barack Obama has vowed to protect scientific research from “political manoeuvres” in the wake of continuing attempts by Republican congressmen to restrict National Science Foundation funding for social science.

Last week, the journal Science’s Science Insider website reported that the chair of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Texas Republican Lamar Smith, had drafted legislation requiring the NSF to certify that every grant it awards advances health, prosperity, welfare or national defence.

The draft, known as the High Quality Research Act, would also require funded research to be “groundbreaking” and to answer questions “that are of utmost importance to society at large”.

Critics see this as the latest Republican attack on public funding for social science research.

In February, House majority leader Eric Cantor said that public funds for social science “would be better spent helping find cures to diseases”. This was followed by Oklahoma Republican senator Tom Coburn’s successful introduction into a March spending bill of a temporary prohibition on NSF funding for political science research unless it promotes US national security or “economic interests”.

But during a speech at the National Academy of Sciences on 29 April, Mr Obama pledged to protect “our rigorous peer-review system” and to ensure that scientific research - in which he explicitly included social science - “does not fall victim to political manoeuvres or agendas” that could damage “the integrity of the scientific process”.

However, he added that it was important that “we only fund proposals that promise the biggest bang for taxpayer dollars”.

The top Democrat on the House science committee, Eddie Bernice Johnson, has condemned Mr Smith for writing a letter to Cora Marrett, acting director of the NSF, demanding explanations for why five recent social science proposals were funded.

She said that the intervention was “the first step on a path that would destroy the merit-based review process at NSF” and brought to bear “political pressure [on] what is widely viewed as the most effective and creative process for awarding research funds in the world”.

paul.jump@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

PhD Scholar in Medicine

University Of Queensland

Manager, Research Systems and Performance

Auckland University Of Technology

Lecturer in Aboriginal Allied Health

University Of South Australia

Lecturer, School of Nursing & Midwifery

Western Sydney University

College General Manager, SHE

La Trobe University
See all jobs

Most Commented

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham