back to article Surprise! Republican bill adds politics to science funding

The chairman of the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Lamar Smith (R-TX), is planning new legislation that would limit the scope of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the biggest research-funding organization in the US, and bring funding decisions under political oversight. Smith - you might remember him …

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Anonymous Coward

Proof

if any was still needed, that incompetent meddlers will always find a way to meddle, and demonstrate their incompetence.

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Re: Proof

How about putting Congress under scientific oversight?

All economic decisions have to be modelled for outcomes, and the modelling has to be peer reviewed by people who know what they're doing. (I.e. not most politicians or academic economists.)

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Happy

Re: Proof

the bill would require each piece of funding to be signed off as unique, with no overlap with another study,

Needed badly.

Believe it or not, there is absolutely no mechanism that checks to see if a proposed project is already being duplicated by another project. It's more about "Hey, Extreme Partisans Inc has been a big help in getting me re-elected. Let's give them an award to study the effect of global warming on ducks. Just take that "The Effect of Global Warming on Ducks" study we gave the other guys and change the name to "Ducks and the Effect of Global Warming". Good, time for lunch.

It is estimated that there is about $25Billion in project duplication, such as hundreds of identical studies on global warming and the Arctic ice.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Proof

The Stupid Party rides again!

Clearly this bill is intended to give big donors control over what gets funded. I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that research into cancer caused by frakking chemicals would get $0 under this bill.

Corrupt bastards.

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As one who at one time did benefit from NSF funding...

This is a terrible idea. There are enough politics in research as it stands now, and adding in Congress would make it worse!

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Re: As one who at one time did benefit from NSF funding...

This pretty much guarantees that there will be little of any use to come out of US research institutions that rely on NSF funding.

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Re: As one who at one time did benefit from NSF funding...

Surely, armies of researchers looking for evidence that Jesus rode a dinosaur will produce something useful !

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Re: As one who at one time did benefit from NSF funding...

"Surely, armies of researchers looking for evidence that Jesus rode a dinosaur will produce something useful !"

You don't need armies of researchers to find evidence of that. Anyone can find the Truth in a certain book. You might have heard of it, it's called The Bible.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Adds?

No, it doesn't "add" politics to science funding.

It just changes the political process a bit, so the current people who manipulate the funding process would have to learn a different set of levers to pull. So they're upset.

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Unhappy

What a terrible terrible idea...

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FAIL

Let me guess

He wants the US to drop climate research, drop malaria research and research how humans and spend more money on research into just how God created the world in seven days.

Oh, and he probably wants to stop research into gerrymandering, given the perfectly logical shape of the district he represents:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Texas.21st.Congressional.District.gif

(It's created to dilute the political power of San Antonio, a very liberal city, as much as possible.)

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Holmes

Climate research is okay, but would be limited to ONE project

Presumably a joint "research" project funded together with Exxon. I'm sure they would be more careful this time since their last prominent scientist flipped on them and decided climate change IS happening after all.

However, my main reaction is that this again proves the need for better economic models. We need to think more clearly about research in the context of making the future better. I even have a proposed analysis in hand:

http://eco-epistemology.blogspot.jp/2013/04/couch-potatoes-of-world-unite.html

Seriously, the couch potatoes deserve more credit for helping the economy than they are usually given.

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Re: Let me guess

You missed one. He'd cut funding for AIDS cure or vaccine research, for those smitten by the disease are smitten by the lord Bob or something.

One ponders a tax revolt from San Antonio, to regain their place in the politics of the land of hysteria...

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Re: Let me guess

The only cure for AIDs is to stop angering God

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Re: Let me guess

I thought gerrymandering was invented by Al Gore. There are some Tennessee and Massachusetts Democratic congressional districts that are so twisted they look like snakes with epilepsy.

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Thumb Down

Re: Let me guess

"I thought gerrymandering was invented by Al Gore. "

If it were it would be called Goremandering, dummy.

You're right about Massachusets, it's just the date you got wrong.

Governer Elbridge Gerry redistrictred Massachusets in 1812 to benifit the Democratic-Republican party. Don't see how you could blame Al Gore for that.

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Unhappy

The Devil Take The Lot of Them

Politicians do not belong in science. They have little actual sway in the scientific community because someone once wisely separated them. That's what the issue is really all about, the fact that the NSF can largely ignore the politicians and being ignored makes them stomp their little feet and cry big Hippo tears. Congress and specifically the GOP are worse than spoiled pre-teens and I used to believe that was impossible.

The only positive out of all this is that both houses of Congress are so busy enjoying the smell their own farts while trying to shit in the other sides pool they can't get anything done. Bunch of moosedicks they are: Big and covered in pond scum.

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Re: The Devil Take The Lot of Them

What amazes me is one thing. EVERY time gun sales went up, the GOP ratcheted their rhetoric and insanity back.

Now, they're ignoring it. Indeed, they're ratcheting it up further and further.

Continuing to strike matches and toss them in a room whose floor is soaked with gasoline.

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Separation of church and state

should extend as far as: If you profess belief in any organised religion, you cannot stand for or be elected to public office or called to the bar. It has been made clear many, many times throughout history that those who believe in invisible men in the sky are not competent to direct the affairs of civilisation.

Bugger "freedom of religion." It should be "freedom from religion." Along with the already-recognised freedoms from want, war, oppression and fear, at least three of which have religion as a primary cause.

I mean, imagine if people went around claiming "freedom of oppression" or "freedom of war?" It would be a fucking joke.

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Re: Separation of church and state

Using demagoguery to damn demagogues? Isn't that like a philosophical suicide vest?

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Pirate

Re: Separation of church and state

May His noodly appendages ever wave and touch your fevered brow with their Marinaran tenderness. Ramen.

Pirates. What else, matey?

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Re: Separation of church and state

You could say that.

Please forgive me. It's Monday morning here, and my sleep-in yesterday was rudely interrupted by some unwelcome peddlers of "the good news", so religion is pretty high on my hate-list at the moment!

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Re: Separation of church and state

When one does as you suggest, one suppresses the voice of those who suffer from religion's delusions.

We in the US also don't have a Constitutional right to freedom from war, oppression and fear. As evidenced by our disgraceful history and many wars in support of big business (Banana wars, anyone?).

Still, I have fun with some of the online wannabe bullies, who make threats with their "second amendment remedies", who then learn that this "liberal" (their definition of me) owns a full dozen firearms and is a veteran of over 27 years (27 years, 8 months before retiring) and has a Special Forces background of significance.

They decry it as BS until I give them a weapons inventory of what is in my firearms safes.

What they don't consider is my unwillingness to shoot anything other than a valid competition target or game, but I'll not disabuse them of their delusions on some matters.

Besides, I'd not soil my personal firearms on any treasonous rebel, I'd be recalled from retirement and issued a customized weapon. :)

Yes, politically and socially, it's getting *that* ugly here in the US.

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Re: Separation of church and state

No it should just be treated like any mental illness.

If during your driving test you continually ask the invisble elfs on the steering wheel if you should stop for pedestrians - you generally fail the test. In politics you fail if you don't claim to listen to them.

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Re: Separation of church and state

"Please forgive me. It's Monday morning here, and my sleep-in yesterday was rudely interrupted by some unwelcome peddlers of "the good news", so religion is pretty high on my hate-list at the moment!"

You lazy sloth! The Lord's day of rest was on SUNDAY why are you still sleeping in on MONDAY???

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Separation of church and state

NomNomNom, he WAS at the office.

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Facepalm

Just imagine...

Just imagine if that study linking aluminium to Alzheimer's was the only such study done, because others weren't allowed to "duplicate" the research.

Just imagine if that study linking vaccinations to Autism was the only such study done, because others weren't allowed to "duplicate" the research.

This guy is a numpty of the highest order. He has absolutely no clue, yet at the same time he has absolute confidence in his own opinions - a dangerous combination.

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Re: Just imagine...

Honestly, this guy wants me to lobby Congress to permit Texas to depart from the union.

Then, have a secondary suggestion to State that Mexico is welcome to reclaim Texas.

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Re: Just imagine...

Just imagine if the first study linking smoking and cancer was the only such study done.

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Trollface

Re: Just imagine...

It could be argued that the President has the authority to renogitiate or withdraw from the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo without Senate oversight, and Mexico never recognized the old Republic of Texas, after all.

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Facepalm

American credibility?

Surely - in some ludicrous world where this passes - the consequence would be the ban of any references to American scientific research from that point on, in any other scientific research?

"You paper presents some great ideas, and you seem to have done good work. However you referenced to Parker & Thompson 2014. Please review this problem with your paper and return once corrections have been made"

I presume the American scientists would find a way around this stuff, but the very process would tar any contributions they might try to make to science. I guess it could mean a flight of scientists from America - but that of course might be what the good Mr. Smith is counting on.

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Headmaster

Re: American credibility?

"Your paper [...]"

There I fixed it for myself

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Re: American credibility?

Ah, but then, he could move forward with another plan.

The commercialization of NASA, defunding any NASA program and contracting it out to cronies.

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Meh

Re: American credibility?

The problem with your idea is that the NSF funds a lot if research done in other countries. The NSF is the driving force behind a lot of global research, they're actually one of the 'good guys' that do happen to come from the States. Go to their website and look at how many projects the NSF funds (completely or in partnership) with other countries, even good ole England.

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Re: American credibility?

Given Ms. Palin's opinions on " fruit fly research in Paris, France.”" I can't see NSF funds being used for many more international projects.

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Re: American credibility?

@Don Jefe

You are correct, they do offer funding for some degree of international research.

I would like to point out that I didn't - at least I don't think I did - come up with any ideas or preferred consequences. I was merely stating that if the US government were to scrap peer-review and pretty much the entire scientific method, then that research would have issues with believability. If the international funding done would surely also be subject to the same criteria for "science", and thus would likely suffer as well. So not just American research would be devalued, but any research affiliated with the NSF. I'll admit that my use of the word "ban" might have been too harsh, but I can't see research done for the US congress without peer review or a desire to retest to be valued highly by anyone in the science community.

I think we can all agree the proposal is rubbish (at least if it's intended to further science, and not Lamars own agenda)

Also - 2 thumbs down for making a pre-emptive grammar-nazi post?

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Re: American credibility?

There I fixed it for myself

And received three downvotes. We'll have no editing here at the Reg!

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"...a way to avoid unnecessary duplication in the field of science funding and as a way of allowing members of Congress to have an input into funding decisions."

The U.S. federal government is overspending and borrowing 1 trillion a year. So Is this called oversight? How dare those congressmen rascals!

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There's a huge difference between oversight and interference.

Not to mention, duplication is how science works - experiments are repeated to confirm outcomes. They're repeated with slight modifications to see if that changes results. Duplication is key to science.

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bad idea, but nothing new

This is a really bad idea because it politicizes research, its just as bad to let extreme left wing politicians do this as extreme right wing.

All that said, this and more is already in place. NSF funding requires that it benefit humankind (you must specify how), is good for the USA, is not being done or been done by someone else, and that the research can be continued after the research is complete (must specify how).

NSF grants are hard to get, but they are the big money grants, otherwise most researchers would not bother to write them.

And yes, I have written NSF grants...

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Re: bad idea, but nothing new

As I recall, studies are funded to reproduce the results of other NSF studies.

A slight exception on the rule.

Removing overlap would end many, many fields funding though. For, any research in genetics would overlap in other research studies in genetics. Much of that is true in subatomic physics.

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Re: bad idea, but nothing new

None of the three examples presented in this article have clear benefits to the USA. Which is a perfectly good reason to require precisely the sort of reporting being required by the proposal. NSF is already politicized, this is just an attempt to weed out some of the leftwing loons.

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Re: bad idea, but nothing new

The majority of NSF grants are tiny, less than $200k over three years. The average grant is about $160k annual over about three years. There are a few dozen big projects that skew the average but we are not talking big bucks here. So no, most NSF grants are positively absolutely not big money grants.

Here's a nice PDF to show you the error of your ways & why you should know what you're talking about before you start making ridiculous statements: http://www.nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2013/pdf/04_fy2013.pdf

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Indiana Pi Bill

That is all.

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Re: Indiana Pi Bill

No, that is not all. You forgot another lesson from history, one that Republicans might be more comfortable with.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism

*That's* what happens when politicians decide on funding priorities.

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Unhappy

Re: Indiana Pi Bill

WR, that's what happens when vicious dictators decide on funding priorities. Politicians don't normally have the guts to back their beliefs with genocide.

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Trollface

Awww

How quaint! People who think scientists are unaffected by politics or who provides the money.

Not only that, but I'm so pleased that none of the posters above appear to have any political views regarding who should get funding for science research.

Don't get me wrong, I'm dubious of this legislation and it appears open to intense abuse, but the driver may be that someone noticed 1001 research projects into the effects of internet porn on the male psyche. It might be important, or it might be a predictably, er, self-serving.

Personally, I'd be far more concerned about morality-free corporates with profit motives and capital reserves corrupting the political system, than I would be about individual politicians reflecting their constituents' views.

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Political Games

President Obama himself insinuated that vaccines may cause health problems -autism. This is so debunkedany times over it's becoming dangerous. In FL a young girl just died of Whooping Cough. "The science is settled on global warming." Oh wait, our models may have been wrong since there has been no warming in the last 15 years. This is a fact. Is this not politicizing in itself?

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"this shows a basic misunderstanding of how scientific experimentation works."

Well, duh. He's a Republican.

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