President Obama and others are responding vocally and publically to a draft bill authored by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX). Smith, who is Chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, has proposed that the National Science Foundation (NSF) only fund research that is in the national interest of the United States.

The High Quality Research Act, which has not yet been formally introduced as a bill, would require the director of NSF to certify that any award “(1) is in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science; (2) is the finest quality, is ground breaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and (3) is not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.”

President Obama alluded to Smith’s legislation and other attempts by Congress to weaken the peer review system in his remarks on the 150th anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences. “And what’s true of all sciences is that in order for us to maintain our edge, we’ve got to protect our rigorous peer review system and ensure that we only fund proposals that promise the biggest bang for taxpayer dollars,” said the President. “And I will keep working to make sure that our scientific research does not fall victim to political maneuvers or agendas that in some ways would impact on the integrity of the scientific process. That’s what’s going to maintain our standards of scientific excellence for years to come.”

Smith countered in a statement released the next day that: “It is the job of Congress and the NSF to make sure that taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly… The draft bill maintains the current peer review process and improves on it by adding a layer of accountability. The intent of the draft legislation is to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent on the highest-quality research possible.”


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