Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Don’t Rob the Social Sciences of Peer Review and Public Dollars

March 31, 2014
Editorial by Edward Liebow, Chronicle of Higher Education

Legislation making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives would significantly reduce National Science Foundation funds for the social sciences and interfere with the agency’s peer-­review process. The alarming proposal, known as the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act of 2014, or FIRST Act, threatens to dismantle social- and behavioral-science research in the United States.

Under the bill, Congress would, for the first time, fund each individual directorate in the NSF rather than the agency as a whole. As proposed, every directorate would see its budget increase or stay essentially flat, with the exception of the directorates for social, behavioral, and economic sciences and for international and integrative activities. Those directorates would experience a 25-percent and a 17-percent decrease, respectively.  

Read more

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Billionaires With Big Ideas Are Privatizing American Science

William J. Broad, New York Times
March 19, 2014

American science, long a source of national power and pride, is increasingly becoming a private enterprise. In Washington, budget cuts have left the nation’s research complex reeling. Labs are closing. Scientists are being laid off. Projects are being put on the shelf, especially in the risky, freewheeling realm of basic research. Yet from Silicon Valley to Wall Street, science philanthropy is hot, as many of the richest Americans seek to reinvent themselves as patrons of social progress through science research. The result is a new calculus of influence and priorities that the scientific community views with a mix of gratitude and trepidation.  Read more

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

House GOP Allows Some Compromise in Bid to Focus NSF on Economic Value

March 13, 2014
Paul Basken, Chronicle of Higher Education

A Congressional panel on Thursday approved legislation that would flatten the budget of the National Science Foundation and revive past attempts to tie the agency’s spending on research to a definable economic payback.
The measure, a policy-setting bill for the NSF and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, would give the NSF a budget in the 2015 fiscal year of $7.28-billion, about 1.5 percent beyond its current level of $7.17-billion. President Obama, in his 2015 budget proposed this month, suggested $7.3-billion, while House Democrats are seeking $7.52-billion.
Yet in a sign of future compromise before the bill reaches the Democratic-controlled Senate, the Republican majority on the House Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology accepted nine separate Democratic amendments, including a partial retreat from plans to severely cut the NSF’s budget for social-science research.  Read more

Monday, March 10, 2014

Federal Spending on Science, Already Down, Would Remain Tight

Paul Basken, Chronicle of Higher Education
March 5, 2014

The Obama administration, constrained by spending caps imposed by Congress, suggested on Tuesday a federal budget for 2015 that would mean another year of cuts in the government’s spending on basic scientific research.
The budget of the National Institutes of Health, the largest provider of basic research money to universities, would be $30.4-billion, an increase of just $200-million from the current year. After accounting for inflation, that would be a cut of about 1 percent.  Read more

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Researchers Resist Pressure to Show Impact of Their Work

February 9, 2014
Aisha Labi, Chronicle of Higher Education

A few years ago, Philip Moriarty, a professor of physics at the University of Nottingham, had had enough. Mr. Moriarty was a member of a peer-review body for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, one of the agencies in Britain that control the purse strings of academic research. In 2009 the council began to require that applicants for grants include a "pathways to impact" statement outlining the potential economic and societal effects of their work and who might benefit from it and how. The professor objected, and eventually he said he would no longer review applications. "I said it would be unconscionable to take part in the process," he says.
Mr. Moriarty is one of a growing chorus of British academics troubled by the extent to which publicly financed research is now required to demonstrate its economic impact and value to society and how that emphasis may steer the direction of research.   Read more

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Poli Sci Victory, For Now

Janaury 24, 2014
Michael Stratford, Inside Higher Ed

Supporters of social science breathed a sigh of relief last week when Congress effectively repealed strict limits on how the National Science Foundation could fund certain types of political science research.

The omnibus appropriations bill that Congress passed and the President signed into law last week did not include the controversial provision that had, for more than nine months, restricted NSF funding for political science to only projects that directly promoted national security and U.S. economic interests.  Read more

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

New Reforms to Federal Grant Policies

January 17, 2014

In February last year I blogged about the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)’s request for comments on proposed federal grant policy reforms. These policies, contained in multiple documents known as circulars, contain Fed-wide regulations on spending, not just for research grants. Many grantees and stakeholder organizations came forth and contributed comments. This information was taken into account by OMB to bring a number of these changes into fruition. The new guidance, “Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards”, was announced by OMB in December as one consolidated omnicircular. Here are just a few highlights:   Read more