NSF Political Science Funding Restrictions Set Dangerous Precedent
NSF Political Science Funding Restrictions Set Dangerous Precedent

April 2013

Political science funding decisions at the National Science Foundation will no longer be determined by independent review—setting a dangerous precedent for all social and behavioral science and all of science. This came about as a result of Congressional action in the form of an amendment added to a government financing bill recently signed into law by President Barack Obama.

The amendment, proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and subsequently approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives, restricts NSF political science funding to research that can be certified as “promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States.”

The NSF director must provide the certification, which must be publicized on the agency’s website. While NSF funding is critical to basic and sustained research in political science, its $11 million funding stream makes up only 0.2% of NSF’s $8 billion budget.

In a letter to then–NSF Director Subra Suresh, Coburn wrote, "Studies of presidential executive power and Americans’ attitudes toward the Senate filibuster hold little promise to save an American's life from a threatening condition or to advance America's competitiveness in the world.”

AERA has been actively working in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Coalition for National Science Funding, the Consortium of Social Science Associations, and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences to protect the integrity of the scientific enterprise and the independence of the peer review process from political encroachment.

Executive Director Felice Levine expressed AERA’s concerns about the current situation: “An attack on any one science is an attack on all science. In a democratic society committed to innovation and discovery, this is simply not tenable.”

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