Originally published 03/29/2013
On March 20, 2013, the United States Senate approved an amendment offered by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, which would restrict the use of federal funds in the National Science Foundation’s Political Science Program. In response, the Council of the American Historical Association approved the following statement of concern:The American Historical Association vigorously opposes the recent Senate appropriations amendment restricting National Science Foundation funding for research in political science to specific topics. The amendment, which requires the agency to limit funding to projects which it can certify “as promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States,” is wrong-headed in many ways.First, the amendment represents an intrusion by politicians into the well-established and generally successful peer-review process by which the agency reviews grant applications. Peer review ensures that grant decisions are made by individuals with the necessary expertise through a reliable, widely accepted, process which minimizes bias. Imposing even innocuous-sounding political criteria for research compromises the autonomy that is necessary for intellectual progress—the first responsibility of the National Science Foundation.