New Attempt to Cut NSF Funding for Political Science
March 15, 2013

As has become common in recent years, some Republicans in Congress are trying to kill the National Science Foundation's support for political science research. Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, has proposed that the $10 million a year spent by the NSF on political science research be shifted to the National Cancer Institute. "NSF’s political science program siphons valuable resources away from higher priority research that will yield greater applied benefits and potential to stir further innovation," said a fact sheet released by the senator. "This amendment does not aim to hinder science, but rather to allocate more support for research that will save lives."

Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the Association of American Universities, sent a letter to senators, opposing the proposal. "The amendment sets up a false dichotomy between medical research and research in
the social sciences that we emphatically reject," Rawlings wrote. "The arguments for providing additional funds for NIH and specifically for NCI are obviously strong, and we wish Congress were providing more funding in FY13. However, such funding should not and need not come at the expense of political science research."

The letter went on to defend the value of political science research: "It provides critical information about how democracy works that is useful not only to this country but also to fledgling democracies seeking to make their new forms of government work. As Jonathan Bernstein has pointed out in The Washington Post, Congress and state legislators work very hard to enact legislation that affects our election processes. They deal with issues relating to funding, redistricting, voting rights and obligations, nomination processes, and others. If peer-reviewed academic research can help inform debates over these issues, that alone makes such research worthwhile."

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