AERA Speaks Out Against Unprecedented Cuts to NSF Social Science Funding
AERA Speaks Out Against Unprecedented Cuts to NSF Social Science Funding
 
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March 2014

On March 13, the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Research and Technology approved a bill that would slash the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) budget for the Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) by 22% for the 2015 fiscal year. An earlier version of the bill had called for a 42% cut in SBE funding.

The legislation, called the FIRST Act (H.R. 4186), is the vehicle for reauthorizing programs at the NSF.    

The subcommittee approved an overall 1.5% increase in funding for the NSF, while taking the unusual step of setting funding levels for individual directorates. The bill would drop SBE funding to $200 million, or 22%, from its current $256 million appropriation.

The bill would also require the agency to provide written justifications explanations why research grants are “in the national interest,” and would prohibit open access to NSF-funded research findings for up to three years after they are published.  This contrasts with language in the FY2014 omnibus spending bill—passed by Congress in January—that would require taxpayer-funded research to be made publicly available online within 12 months of publication.

After the Subcommittee on Research and Technology advanced the FIRST Act by voice vote, AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine said: “The FIRST Act sadly falls short of meeting the objectives of a sound reauthorization bill for NSF. The bill signals a micromanagement of NSF by Congress and a failure to acknowledge the importance of social science in the family of science. Overall, this bill does not take into account how federal investment in all of the sciences has fostered innovation and the significant role of NSF in driving discoveries.”

AERA has been on the forefront of mobilizing the scientific community’s response to the bill. Executive Director Levine is co-chairing a collaborative initiative to facilitate working strategically across the Consortium of Social Science Associations, the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences on messaging, member mobilization, and Hill outreach.  This initiative is part of a broader effort that includes key coalitional groups, such as the Coalition for National Science Funding and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to support important federal investments in scientific research.

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