If it’s springtime, it must be budget season in DC. And with budget season come new (re-newed) attacks on research funding, peer review, and the value of the social sciences. Right now, the fight is over HR 4660, the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill. As this legislation has worked its way through markup and committee, on its way to the House floor, several disturbing provisions of the legislation have emerged.
First and foremost are various attempts to slash funding for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) of the National Science Foundation. Some amendments have zeroed out funding for SBE entirely while other provisions have sought dramatic cuts to the Directorate’s funding. Concerns about SBE were crystallized by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) on the House floor in a speech delivered on May 28th. Cantor praised the efforts to “reform” NSF by reducing funding for SBE, so as to “eliminate wasteful spending and prioritize research that has the potential of truly benefiting our Nation.” Here’s the entire May 28th House floor debate on HR 4660.
Rep. Cantor’s remarks were challenged by the ranking member on the CJS committee, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who defended NSF’s processes of merit-based peer review. In his floor remarks, Rep. Fattah argued that NSF’s peer-review processes are world-class:
“All of our competitors are actually trying to mimic the merit-based selection process that the National Science Foundation utilizes, and it is critically important that the National Science Board, in the ways that these decisions are made, is not going to be influenced by politics. That was in the wisdom of the creation of this, and it has worked so well that we now lead the world. If we want to continue to lead the world, the last thing we want to do is to interject politics into the decision-making process of what basic scientific research should be supported.”
Update: Another defense of SBE funding at NSF was provided by Rep. David Price (D-NC), a longtime champion of research funding for both the social sciences and the humanities. Many of the projects he highlights in this speech relate to Communication either directly or indirectly.
NCA–Back on the Hill
Partly in response to the lingering, ongoing attacks to SBE funding, and to the peer review processes at NSF more generally, NCA joined with approximately fifty other organizations, learned societies, and universities to host and participate in the 20th Annual Capitol Hill Exhibition, sponsored by the Coalition for National Science Funding. On a Wednesday afternoon, representatives from the CNSF organizations came to the Rayburn House Office Building to display their projects–all funded by NSF and all making a compelling argument for the value of sustained, peer-reviewed research funding.
NCA members John Gastil (Penn State University) and Katie Knobloch (Colorado State University) came to DC to discuss their project entitled “The Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR), 2010-2014: Evaluation and Analysis of an Electoral Innovation,” principally funded by an NSF grant from the SBE Directorate. Their poster is below and is available here as a PDF.
Gastil and Knobloch discussed their project with numerous attendees at the Exhibition, including NSF officials, liaisons with other funding agencies and universities, Capitol Hill staffers, and Members of Congress. Notably, Representatives Fattah (below, with Knobloch and Gastil) and Jerry McNerney (D-CA) spent considerable time at the NCA exhibit, learning about the role of social science in bettering democratic deliberation and citizen engagement.
As a member of the Coalition for National Science Funding, NCA regularly participates in CNSF activities and has for the last two years brought NSF funded Communication scholars to DC for the Capitol Hill Briefing and Exhibition. Attending the event, along with Gastil and Knobloch, were NCA Executive Director Nancy Kidd (below with Knobloch and Gastil), NCA Director of Academic & Professional Affairs Trevor Parry-Giles, and Academic & Professional Affairs Associate Megan Moore.