Flutterby™! : Centrally controlled economies, research and Republicans

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Centrally controlled economies, research and Republicans

2013-04-29 17:57:09.119111+00 by Dan Lyke 2 comments

US Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) proposes that Congressional funding criteria would replace peer review in funding decisions made by the NSF:

The legislation, being worked up by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), represents the latest—and bluntest—attack on NSF by congressional Republicans seeking to halt what they believe is frivolous and wasteful research being funded in the social sciences. Last month, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) successfully attached language to a 2013 spending bill that prohibits NSF from funding any political science research for the rest of the fiscal year unless its director certifies that it pertains to economic development or national security. Smith's draft bill, called the "High Quality Research Act," would apply similar language to NSF's entire research portfolio across all the disciplines that it supports.

I don't think much of the social sciences. I have some specific research programs that I believe are irrelevant wastes, although none of those examples are NSF funded.

However, I'm pretty sure that letting members of Congress determine research directions is a recipe for PORC/pork that puts science in the military and security industrial complex bin, and we definitely don't need any more of that sort of socialism.

[ related topics: Politics Invention and Design moron Current Events Economics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2013-04-29 18:40:06.67214+00 by: ebradway

One thing that is interesting about social science research is that it's pretty inexpensive compared to engineering and defense research. In social science, getting a $5,000 grant is note worthy and a $50,000 grant is enormous. Only really big social science projects that involve multiple disciplines and many times, multiple universities, see grants on the order of $500,000.

Step over to engineering and defense research. No one would even mention a $5,000 grant. $50,000 grants are chump change. $500,000 grants are the domain of PhD students and pre-tenure faculty. $5,000,000 are pretty standard fare with $50,000,000 and $500,000,000 grants going to projects involving multiple disciplines and multiple universities.

There's really not that much pork in social science. Typically half the grant money gets skimmed by the university as "indirects". What's left usually pays for grad students to live on ramen noodles for a year while doing the grunt work of the research.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-04-29 21:29:14.536714+00 by: Dan Lyke

Lyn tweeted the Ars Technica version of the story which further explores the stupidity.

Sigh. We have real examples of waste, these proposals wouldn't address them. In fact, these proposals would probably just exacerbate them, because the waste I'm seeing generally tends to be about exploring old ideas that are irrelevant, and this sort of politicking would lend itself very well to that sort of staid "nobody got fired because" research.

And would also lend itself to be the sort of research that companies would pay for, except they get to socialize the R&D costs.