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AERA: Congress' Criteria for NSF Research Will 'Stifle Science'

The American Educational Research Association today praised the National Science Foundation's effort to implement new Congressional rules for political science research without damaging its peer review system.

As I reported back in May, the most recent continuing budget resolution passed in Congress included language requiring the NSF to fund only political science research that advances "national security or the economic interests of the United States." That language—and bills intended to extend similar requirements to social science and other research—have drawn criticism and concern from researchers.

The NSF, for its part, said in a statement on how it will implement the rule that it will continue to use peer review panels to screen research proposals, and will ask the panels to "provide input on whether proposals meet one or both of the additional criteria required for exceptions under P.L. 113-6, i.e., promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States."

Felice J. Levine, AERA's executive director, said the NSF approach showed "the agency's steadfast commitment to advancing scientific inquiry to the fullest extent possible, while adhering to the law. It is clear that NSF is implementing the new requirements with scientific integrity."

She went on to critique Congressional attempts to keep a tighter leash on studies, particularly in hot-button fields like political and social science (which include education-related research on charter schools, teacher pay and evaluations, school reform efforts, and so on.)

"We take the view that add-on criteria developed without scientific community leadership will, in the end, stifle science, especially when introduced and imposed only on a certain field or fields of science. The irony that a legislative body imposes new criteria on the science that informs politics and policy cannot be missed by even a casual observer of science funding and policy," Levine said in a statement. "We hope that common sense prevails and that bipartisan public support ensures these criteria do not become permanent."

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