The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee is expected to consider legislation in the coming weeks that would reauthorize future funding levels for NSF and potentially make policy changes at the agency. The Committee held two hearings on 17 April 2013 funding and oversight of the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Remarks made by committee members provide some insight into the panel’s views of NSF research. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) repeatedly questioned the value of social science research funded by NSF. Smith asked the hearing witnesses about the potential to implement a legislative provision that requires any research funded by NSF to directly benefit the American people. Dr. Dan Arvizu, chair of the National Science Board, rebutted that such a provision would be difficult to tailor in a way that would not compromise the scientific credibility of the agency. In a separate hearing, Dr. John Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, cautioned against Congress micromanaging how agencies such as NSF award research grants. But he also conceded that there is “room for improvement” in how NSF prioritizes research initiatives based on potential value to the national interest.
Another committee member, Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL) also questioned NSF’s role in supporting social science research. Posey suggested that these scientific fields should be funded by private industry, not American taxpayers.
Representative Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) highlighted some of the benefits of social science research, including the Nobel Prize for economics awarded to Dr. Elinor Ostrom, who received NSF funding for some of her work on common property.
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