The end of the US as an innovation machine is upon us

lysenkoTrofim Lysenko

U.S. Lawmaker Proposes New Criteria for Choosing NSF Grants – 
[Via ScienceInsider]

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 sequester is already hurting research funding in the US. Now conservative politicians want to make an even larger impact.

How do we want to make the research decisions funding American Innovation – peer-view by scientists or patronage by demagogic politicians? Looks like conservative politicians want to make it the latter.

Currently, researchers peer-review grants to decide on the ones that get funding. Baeed on the best scientific rationales. Not political ones.

In its place conservatives fell that grants can only be funded if they are directly applicable to health, wealth,  welfare and defense of the United States. They must be groundbreaking and must not be duplicative of any other project. These are all things that are very politicized and very subjective. They tremendously complicate the very act of doing research

It’s hard enough to get a grant funded when just using intellectual content as a criteria. Now these conservative politicians want to add another layer of political considerations into the process.

Luckily we have other politicians who recognize the danger of letting politicians decide what is good science or not. Eddie Johnson, who has worked on the Committee for over 20 years, wrote:


It is not perfect but GOP legislators now want to include more political criteria. Research grants can not just be given because they  expand our knowledge of the world around us, because they have intellectual merit. 

These efforts make scientific research a political football. Top-down micromanaging of scientific research destroyed Soviet  efforts for generations. Now some conservatives want to similarly politicize Federal funding of research grants.

Again, Rep. Johnson:


The GOP leader of this committee is already trying to begin this process, asking for general information from NSF on several five specific grants that he feels needs better explanation for their intellectual merit. How much more onerous will this be when he has created a whole bunch of new criteria that are directly political?

And he wants it be applied to all grants given by any Federal agency. He wants to impose HIS political views on which grants should be funded.

As John Holden stated, “It’s a dangerous thing for Congress, or anybody else, to be trying to specify in detail what types of fundamental research NSF should be funding.” Doing research using top-down driven mandates is what killed Soviet science for generations. In the same way, it will destroy research here.

If this GOP Representative’s plan comes to fruition, the opinions of corrupt politicians will be substituted for the views of American researchers.

The process that has generated innovations for 60 years will be gone, replaced by one as distorted as that seen in defense procurement, where things that are not needed and not even wanted are pushed forward by politicians needing to provide a government handout to their patrons.