Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The anti-science agenda of the GOP now extends to political science as well. Ezra Klein writes at his WonkBlog, Jeff Flake’s plan to politicize the National Science Foundation:
On Thursday, on a mostly party-line vote, the House passed an amendment by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to prohibit the National Science Foundation from funding political science research. And, in doing so, it politicized one of the main ways this country funds scientific research.
“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.” Well, what Flake considers a meritless program, anyway.
As Christopher Zorn writes, the NSF runs a widely respected peer-review program that decides what science to fund. If Flake wanted to reduce the funding available to the NSF in total, that would be one thing (and, to be fair to Flake, he has proposed that in the past). But what he’s doing here is telling the NSF what is and isn’t acceptable science to fund. That’s not how scientific decisions are supposed to work. And the effect could be chilling.
Flake was quick to give examples of the “waste” that motivated his amendment. There was the “$700,000 to develop a new model for international climate change analysis” and the “$600,000 to try to figure out if policymakers actually do what citizens want them to do.” In other words, Flake didn’t like the kind of research that the NSF was funding in the political science arena, and so he barred the NSF from funding political science at all.
Now imagine you’re part of a discipline that isn’t political science, but that relies on NSF funding. Or imagine you’re on one of the NSF panels that funds those disciplines. Think you’ll be a bit more careful about submitting or greenlighting work on climate change? Of course you will.
If Flake had cut NSF funding, that would be one thing. Instead, he inserted politics — and his personal preferences — into the NSF’s funding-review process. That’s a much more dangerous precedent to set.