AERA Continues to Defend Federal Role in Basic Research
AERA Continues to Defend Federal Role in Basic Research
AERA Continues to Defend Federal Role in Basic Research

May 2013

AERA continues to respond to attacks on federal funding of high-quality, peer-reviewed research in all scientific fields. Most recently, AERA signed on to the Coalition for National Science Funding’s (CNSF) letter to congressional members expressing concern over new attempts to assert influence over the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) merit review process.

The letter is a response to recent actions in the House Science Committee that pose a new threat to NSF’s merit review criteria, extending the restrictions Congress placed on the agency’s Political Science Program in the FY2013 continuing resolution bill. Most notably, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chair of the House Science Committee, circulated a draft discussion bill, the High Quality Research Act, that would require the NSF director to publish a certification that any NSF-funded project:

  • Supports the interests of the United States in advancing national health, prosperity, or welfare or securing the national defense by promoting the progress of science;
  • Is of the finest quality, breaks new ground, and aims to solve and answer questions of utmost importance to society at large; and
  • Does not duplicate other federally funded research.

In addition, on April 25 Rep. Smith sent a letter to NSF director Cora Marrett questioning the intellectual merits of and seeking the scientific/technical reviews and Program Officer evaluations for five grants funded by NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate.

AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine was quoted in a recent Education Week story on these developments:  “The High Quality Research Act will seriously encroach upon the integrity of merit review and undermine the U.S. investment in basic science,” she said. “Regardless of the scientific field, independent peer review is fundamental to scientific discovery and the hallmark of the U.S. scientific enterprise."

Previous NSF directors and chairs of the National Science Board, as well as a group of former NSF Assistant Directors, also sent letters to House Science Committee Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson expressing concern over the draft legislation and Smith’s letter.

Earlier this week, in a response to Smith, NSF defended the need to maintain the confidentiality of the peer-review process.