US Republicans have passed a bill through the House (but not the Senate yet) aiming to get back some control over the 7 billion dollar science budget. Previously the National Science Foundation (or NSF) had all the fun in dishing out the dough, but the Republicans have had enough. Their wish list includes cutting social sciences by 55%, climate science by 8%, and putting extra money into biology, computers, engineering and hard sciences. It can’t come soon enough.
Critics are howling that this will politicize science, but it’s just the opposite. Science was already politicized, and thanks in no small part to the NSF itself. This would put control of the funding back slightly closer to the voters. The NSF is almost unaccountable to the taxpayer, and if the NSF had not wasted money on so many one-sided pointless extravaganza’s (like $5m for “climate games”) and tipped so much money into “behavioural” studies, the elected members would not be knocking at their door. The NSF has only itself to blame.
Ultimately, elected representatives have to be accountable for public spending, but they like to hand over control to a committee of experts. Said committee grows on the gravy train, and after decades of big-government-dependence, why would anyone be surprised if it transforms into a fan of big-government, boosting projects that promote the big-government agenda? The incentives are all wrong. Our ARC suffers from the same big-governmentitis. (Send a memo to Australian politicians.) ARC grants often seem to be a form of government advertising disguised as research.
Republicans Vote to Restrict Climate Funding
US House Republicans voted to place limits on funding for scientific research, including climate change studies, as they passed legislation that more narrowly defines their priorities.
The America Competes Reauthorization Act still has to be reconciled with a Senate version, and the White House has threatened a veto if the measure passes as is.
The bill slightly raises overall scientific funding levels, from $7.3 billion this year to $7.6 billion in 2016.
In previous years the NSF itself determined the allocation of federal grants and funding.
Democrats fumed that the bill automatically slashes social, behavioral and economic sciences by 55 percent compared to 2015, while geosciences including climate research shrinks eight percent to $1.2 billion.
Research budgets for green energy programs would be hit too.
Conversely, Republicans prioritized funding for biology, computer science, engineering, mathematics and physical sciences.
US readers will no doubt set me straight on the finer points of this. And of course, even if the Senate smiles on it, the Pres plans to veto the bill.