National Science Foundation

米国のKay Bailey Hutchison上院議員奇妙な質問の話。NSFは社会科学をサポートするな。Emily Wilcoxさんによって、East Asian Anthropologist MLに転送された;

Science 12 May 2006:
Vol. 312. no. 5775, p. 829
DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5775.829a

News of the Week

Senate Panel Chair Asks Why NSF Funds Social Sciences

Jeffrey Mervis

Why is the National Science Foundation (NSF) funding a
study of a women's cooperative in Bangladesh? Why are U.S.
taxpayers footing the bill for efforts to understand
Hungary's emerging democracy? And why are social
scientists even bothering to compile an archive of state
legislatures in a long-gone
era when those legislators chose U.S.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), chair of a panel that
oversees NSF and a member of the powerful Senate
Appropriations Committee, put those and other sharply
worded questions to NSF Director Arden Bement last week
during an unusually combative hearing on the agency's 2007
budget request.
Hutchison signaled that she will be taking a hard look at
NSF's $200-million-a-year social and behavioral sciences
portfolio, which funds some 52% of all social science
research done by U.S. academics and some 90% of the work
by political scientists. Hutchison made it clear during
the 2 May hearing
that she doesn't think the social sciences should benefit
from President George W. Bush's proposal for a 10-year
doubling of NSF's budget as part of his American
Competitiveness Initiative (Science, 17 February, p. 929).
And she suggested afterward to Science that she's open to
more drastic

Warning shot. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
questions the value of some NSF-funded research.

"I'm trying to decide whether it would be better to put
political science and some other fields into another
[government] department," she said. "I want NSF to be our
premier agency for basic research in the sciences,
mathematics, and engineering. And when we are looking at
scarce resources, I think
NSF should stay focused on the hard sciences."
Last week's hearing was not the first time Hutchison has
taken a shot at NSF's support of the social sciences. In a
30 September 2005 speech honoring the winners of the
annual Lasker medical research awards, she backed a
doubling of NSF's budget but added that social science
research "is not where
we should be directing [NSF] resources at this time."
Hutchison tipped her hand a few months before the hearing
by asking NSF officials for abstracts of grants funded by
the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic
Sciences (SBE) going back several years. But the harshness
of last week's attack caught the community by surprise,
leaving social
scientists and their supporters scratching their heads
about how best to respond.

"In some ways, it's SBE that tackles the most challenging
scientific questions, because its research investigates
people's behavior and touches on the most sensitive issues
in our society," noted Neal Lane, a physicist and former
NSF director now at Rice University in Houston, Texas. "So
I'm not
surprised that it's been hard to articulate how it
connects to innovation and improving the nation's
Aletha Huston, a developmental psychologist at the
University of Texas, Austin, who wrote a letter to
Hutchison before the hearing defending NSF-funded work by
herself and colleagues at UT's Population Research Center,
points out that "if you want to understand how to remain
competitive, you need to
look at more than technology, . at the organizational and
human issues that play a role."

Hutchison says she hasn't decided how to translate her
concerns into legislation. One option would be to limit
spending for the social sciences in the upcoming 2007
appropriations bill for NSF. Another approach would be to
curtail the scope of NSF's portfolio in legislation
enacting the president's
competitiveness initiative or reauthorizing NSF's

In the meantime, says sociologist Mark Hayward, who heads
the UT population center, it would be a mistake for social
scientists to ignore her concerns. "We have to be
persistent and consistent in our message,"
says Hayward, who along with Huston hasn't heard back from
"We can't just say, 'My goodness, she's not paying
attention.' "