Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), a climate skeptic who somehow became chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, wants Congress to meddle in decisions about which science research efforts should get government funding.
Perhaps that’s because scientists have a scary track record of finding out bothersome stuff. Like about climate change and whatnot.
The new chair of the House of Representatives science committee has drafted a bill that, in effect, would replace peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a set of funding criteria chosen by Congress. For good measure, it would also set in motion a process to determine whether the same criteria should be adopted by every other federal science agency.
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.
The National Science Foundation, which has a $7 billion annual budget, funds a wide variety of research on climate change, among many other topics. From an NSF climate change report [PDF]:
NSF funding through the decades has led to many of the most fundamental discoveries and advances in human knowledge about the causes and consequences of global climate change and variability. Paleoclimate records, computational climate models, and economic models of climate change are just some examples of the major contributions of NSF’s investments in this area.
Fortunately, with Barack Obama in the White House and Democrats in control of the Senate, maneuvers like this generally turn out to be little more than time-wasting chest-thumping by anti-science charlatans. So long as that is the case, American scientists can continue to further our understanding of how fossil-fuel addiction is recasting our environment — and what we could do about it.