In a recent USA Today editorial/opinion column, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith target grants awarded by the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate of the the National Science Foundation as examples of government waste and a misuse of taxpayer resources.
This isn’t the first time that the NSF has been the target of increased Congressional scrutiny. Last year, the agency’s political science grants were targeted and AAA responded quickly. Earlier this year, in response to draft legislation (the so-called “High Quality Research Act”) that would have required the Director of the NSF to certify that prior to making any grant award the research project be “in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity of welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science,” the AAA wrote a letter stating our objection to the proposal.
Certain Members of Congress have been asking the public to present ideas and identify areas where federal government waste and fraud are present. YouCut, launched by Majority Leader Cantor in May of 2010, is a website where visitors can submit their ideas for cost-cutting measures, and view videos of selected submissions being discussed while Congress is in session. Recently, the Majority Leader launched a new initiative designed to identify and target cuts to the NSF. Sadly, the new website asks citizens to search the NSF grants database to highlight grants to be questioned, and suggests keywords such as “success, culture, social norm, museum and stimulus” to identify them.
The AAA has been working with our partners in the humanities and social science communities, visiting Congressional legislators and their staff, making the case that social science research is critical to not only American, but world scholarship. While it is important to give the American taxpayer value for their research investment, Congress should not hamper the ability or the autonomy of federal agencies to award grants to those researchers whose projects have been peer-reviewed and deemed worthy of further study. With legislation re-authorizing the NSF scheduled to be considered in the upcoming months, it is important to let Capitol Hill know the value of social science, behavioral and economic research.
Please contact your Member of Congress today and let them know that you support NSF and it’s peer review process. If you’d like more information about how to become involved, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.