In response to growing criticism on Capitol Hill of federal funding for the social and behavioral sciences, the executive committee of the Association of American Universities (AAU) issued a statement on September 17 urging Congress and the Obama administration “to provide robust funding for federal research agencies without inappropriate restrictions, so that they can continue to fulfill their missions of supporting the full range of scientific research across all disciplines.”
AAU, which represents 62 major research universities, noted several recent instances of social and behavioral science funding being restricted or otherwise questioned by elected officials, and stressed the importance of research in these areas to advancing the national interest.
“The social and behavioral sciences—anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, linguistics, and sociology, among others—have been funded by NSF, NIH, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies to directly support their missions by advancing fundamental new understanding of business and the economy, of human development and behavior, of groups and organizations, of other nations and cultures, and of our democracy and how it can be strengthened,” said the AAU Executive Committee statement. “This research has been important to addressing the nation’s most pressing challenges in areas such as national security, education, commerce, health, energy, crime and public safety, and transportation.”
In addition, the AAU Executive Committee wrote: “Insights and innovations from the social and behavioral sciences are no less valuable than discoveries in the physical and life sciences. Moreover, interdisciplinary research engaging the social and behavioral sciences is producing new knowledge and understanding that would not have emerged from research within single disciplines. In fact, many innovations and new technologies, such as touch screen tablets and mobile phones, rely upon knowledge and discoveries from the physical and life sciences combined with insights from the social and behavioral sciences.”
“The AAU Executive Committee statement gets to the very core of why the federal investment in social and behavioral science matters, and what is at risk if congressional support for independent scientific inquiry continues to erode,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “It is required reading for our nation’s elected officials.”