On May 17, on behalf of AERA and other member organizations, the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) urged the Senate not to act on a provision similar to one that recently passed the House of Representatives, prohibiting funding for the National Science Foundation’s Political Science Program. AERA is a governing member of COSSA, and AERA executive director Felice J. Levine sits on the COSSA executive committee, which unanimously supported issuing a letter to the Senate.
On May 9, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to the FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (HR. 5326) offered by Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and prohibiting the use of funds for NSF’s political science program. The vote was 218–208, largely along party lines. Representative Flake led in gathering the vote to prohibit NSF from spending any of its appropriation on political science. “My amendment does not reduce funding for the NSF,” he explained. Rather, “this amendment is simply oriented toward ensuring, at the least, that the NSF does not waste taxpayer dollars on a meritless program.”
The Senate has not yet considered the appropriations bill (S. 2323), although it is expected that a similar amendment will be offered on the Senate floor near the end of June.
The science community is reacting strongly to what it regards as an attack on the social sciences, the NSF peer review process, and science in general. In addition to the COSSA letter, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has weighed in with the Senate, and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences (FABBS) is urging its membership to take action. AERA is a founding member of FABBS. “Working through umbrella societies such as COSSA, FABBS, and the Coalition for National Science Funding increases the potential impact and facilitates consistency in messaging on issues of great significance to the community,” Levine said.
In a May 14 letter to the Senate, AAAS’s Alan Leshner drew attention to “the previous letter signed last year by 149 scientific societies that strongly oppose attempts to eliminate or substantially reduce funding for specific areas of science, such as the social, behavioral and economic (SBE) sciences.” AERA was a signatory to that letter, issued last fall.
The FABBS action alert states: “Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced the amendment stating that it was ‘oriented toward ensuring, at the least, that the NSF does not waste taxpayer dollars on a meritless program.’…To protect the merit review process at NSF and oppose efforts to allow politics to determine what is good science, the scientific community must act. Soon the Senate will consider a bill that includes funding for the NSF and its research programs.”
The issue is spurring public debate. In a June 4 op-ed, Charles Lane states that “Flake’s amendment does not go far enough: the NSF shouldn’t fund any social science.” Responses to the column have come from other Post editorial staff and from readers.
AERA will continue to monitor developments and act in concert with the rest of the science community. Visit the AERA website’s news section for further updates.
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