Science chairman’s impact on NSF peer review: Trashes social sciences

#1
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/03/r...t-nsf-peer

EXCERPT: Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX) has repeatedly criticized the peer-review process at the National Science Foundation (NSF) [...] since becoming chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’s science committee in 2013. It was no surprise, then, that during a hearing yesterday on NSF’s 2019 budget request he railed against a handful of grants from NSF’s $6 billion research portfolio as a waste of taxpayer dollars.

What was surprising is that the agency’s friends—both the NSF officials who testified and Democratic legislators who have staunchly defended the agency’s grantmaking practices—appear to have accepted Smith’s premise that NSF has lost sight of its obligation to fund research “in the national interest” and agree that Congress needs to keep NSF on a short leash.

[...] NSF Director France Córdova later tried to appease Smith after he ridiculed a $450,000 grant exploring the interaction of culture and language [...] Starting this month, Córdova noted, the online description of every NSF award includes a sentence that the research “reflects NSF’s statutory mission.” The language, she told Smith, “is meant to be a pause for every division director to ask whether the research fulfills national needs.”

Smith was not satisfied. “I just looked at your justification of light blue,” he said about the 2012 grant to researchers at The Ohio State University in Columbus, “and if there’s anything in it about national interest, let me know. I did not see it.”

Smith has long argued that NSF should be spending more money on computing and the physical sciences, fields in which other countries are threatening U.S. global leadership and that have direct applications to military and economic security. The social and behavioral sciences can’t make that claim, he says...

MORE: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/03/r...t-nsf-peer
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#2
And he's right. Social science navel gazing isn't in the national interest.
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#3
(Mar 19, 2018 05:21 PM)C C Wrote: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/03/r...t-nsf-peer

I notice that this story comes from Science magazine, a publication whose editors, writers and readership can be expected to support the federal research-grant gravy-train that supports so many of them and to oppose anything or anyone that's perceived as threatening their flow of other people's dollars.

Quote:EXCERPT: Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX) has repeatedly criticized the peer-review process at the National Science Foundation (NSF) [...] since becoming chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’s science committee in 2013. It was no surprise, then, that during a hearing yesterday on NSF’s 2019 budget request he railed against a handful of grants from NSF’s $6 billion research portfolio as a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Many scientific research grants in the 'hard-sciences' are for things that would probably be nice to know in the abstract, but aren't for things that directly (or even potentially) impact national security or the average American. The situation is even worse (far worse) in the (misnamed) "social sciences" and in the humanities. A case needs to be made why the taxpayers should even be funding much of that.

Quote:What was surprising is that the agency’s friends—both the NSF officials who testified and Democratic legislators who have staunchly defended the agency’s grantmaking practices—appear to have accepted Smith’s premise that NSF has lost sight of its obligation to fund research “in the national interest” and agree that Congress needs to keep NSF on a short leash.

If that's true, then it's good news.

I don't think that federal tax-supported science funding should be reduced necessarily, but it certainly should be targeted more directly at proposals that might have some practical payoff down the line. Not only that, the money should be targeted at proposals where plausible and effective methods are likely to produce results and not just generate occasions for what is often just speculative hypothesis and divisive opinion.

Quote:Smith has long argued that NSF should be spending more money on computing and the physical sciences, fields in which other countries are threatening U.S. global leadership and that have direct applications to military and economic security. The social and behavioral sciences can’t make that claim, he says...

I most emphatically agree. (The life sciences deserve funding too, but the NSF is less often their funding agency.)

There are no end of deep-pockets private parties that could be funding the merde if they like it so much and think it's so important. (That's you, Mark Zuckerberg.) Let the billionaire "masters of the universe" pull out their bulging wallets and privately fund it. There's no reason why struggling Michigan factory workers whose jobs are being outsourced to Asia should be forced to pay pampered "social scientists" to tell them how "neurotic", "fearful", pathological and generally inferior they are.
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#4
Great post, Yaz.
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