NSF-Funded Scientists Subjected to a “Witch Hunt” by Congressional Committee!

Dear Commons Community,

NSF-funded scientists are alarmed that they are being subjected to inquiries and a “witch hunt” by a Republican-controlled Congressional committee. Under the guise of seeking out wasteful spending, the Congressional Committee is investigating the merits of NSF-funded projects. As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required):

“NSF grants to some 50 professors across the country are now being investigated by the Republican-controlled committee. More than a dozen of the researchers, in comments to The Chronicle, said they had little idea what the politicians were seeking, but warned of a dangerous precedent in what they described as a witch hunt.

“This is an outrageous politicization of science,” said one of the researchers, Glenn Gordon Smith, an associate professor in instructional technology at the University of South Florida who has used NSF money for work involving climate change.

“This is a ludicrous waste of taxpayers’ money,” said Celia Pearce, an assistant professor of digital media at the Georgia Institute of Technology whose studies the work applications of large-scale, multiplayer online worlds. “It saddens me that elected officials are attacking science in this way,” said Robert M. Rosenswig, an associate professor of anthropology at the University at Albany, a campus of the State University of New York, whose NSF-financed grant involved studying Mexican history…

Aides to the chairman of the House committee, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, have been visiting NSF headquarters, just outside Washington, for the past several months to study the grants—primarily in the social sciences, many in anthropology—approved in recent years.”

As an example, Dr. Smith named above, used an NSF grant to develop a curriculum on climate change for high-school students. He suggested pure political motivation lay behind the committee’s focus on his work. “When you are selectively in denial of overwhelming scientific evidence,” he said, “you seek out ways to discredit investigators who research in that area.”



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