Scientists Needed to Respond to SBE Threats

June 24, 2011

By Paula Skedsvold

FABBS recently reported on the attacks directed at the National Science Foundation’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate. Senator Coburn released a report that simplified highly promising research and found its way into media outlets eager to fuel the fire.

The Subcommittee on Research and Education of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology followed suit and held a hearing to assess the value of SBE sciences to the American taxpayer.

Similar messages about the relative value of SBE sciences to other “hard” sciences were made clear when the House Appropriations Committee marked up the agriculture bill and adopted an amendment by Rep. Denny Rehberg that barred funding for FDA rulemaking activities or guidance unless the Agriculture Secretary based decisions on “hard science” rather than “cost and consumer behavior.”

Since the assaults began on NSF generally, and SBE in particular, the scientific community has united in opposition to attacks on NSF, individual grants, and an entire area of science. Representatives of the SBE community have been especially active.

The most likely scenario is an amendment to the appropriations bill that includes NSF, either in full committee or when the bill reaches the House floor. As a result, representatives of the SBE scientific societies have met with appropriations subcommittee staffers on both sides of the aisle to express our concerns. We will continue to meet with Hill staff to find champions to make the case for NSF and SBE during this process.

Various groups such as the American Association for Universities are pulling together information on the grants that were highlighted in the Coburn report so that the real story of this research can be told. In addition, the American Psychological Association has joined forces with the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) to respond to the attacks broadly and to the House Research and Education Subcommittee’s hearing that suggested the SBE sciences were less valuable to the country.  COSSA itself has been highly active in trying to counter the attacks.

Read the APA letter »

FABBS too has been engaged in numerous activities including meetings with Hill staff to shore up support, providing feedback regarding Hill testimony, encouraging a joint response from the larger scientific community, interacting with individual scientists about blogs and op-eds, and speaking to lobbyists in key positions about other activities.

Despite all of these activities, there is a real chance that votes to defund individual grants and/or substantially reduce funding for NSF’s SBE Directorate could pass in the House. Scientists will need to get involved to turn the tide.

The Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill is currently scheduled to be before the subcommittee on July 7th, the full appropriations committee on July 13th, and the full House during the week of August 1st.

We encourage individual scientists to sign up for FABBS Action Alerts so that when urgent action is necessary you will be notified and can send a message to your Member of Congress. We will keep you abreast of any amendments to defund individual grants or single out SBE for reduced funding. Sign up and encourage your colleagues to do the same!

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