The new chair of the House of Representatives science committee has drafted a bill that, in effect, would replace peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a set of funding criteria chosen by Congress. For good measure, it would also set in motion a process to determine whether the same criteria should be adopted by every other federal science agency.Of course, the Republicans claim it's about cutting waste and duplicative research, and ensuring that the funded science has value. Because it's not scientists who would know what scientific research has value, it's Congress. Which is an interesting position for Republicans to take, given their supposed antipathy to government. Or maybe that antipathy is limited to government regulating the Republicans' corporate owners. But here's one clear area where Congressional Republicans might consider scientific research of little value:
The legislation, being worked up by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), represents the latest—and bluntest—attack on NSF by congressional Republicans seeking to halt what they believe is frivolous and wasteful research being funded in the social sciences. Last month, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) successfully attached language to a 2013 spending bill that prohibits NSF from funding any political science research for the rest of the fiscal year unless its director certifies that it pertains to economic development or national security. Smith's draft bill, called the "High Quality Research Act," would apply similar language to NSF's entire research portfolio across all the disciplines that it supports.
Researchers know that human activities including fossil fuel use, agriculture and land use have been the dominant causes of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the past 250 years. In addition, aerosols and land surface changes are also altering the Earth's climate, making it extremely likely1 that human activities have had a net warming effect since 17502. These human-caused changes to the climate system, and their consequences, provide much of the impetus for the National Science Foundation's (NSF) climate change research.
Researchers funded by NSF have discovered signs of a changing climate in nearly every corner of the globe, from the icy expanses of Earth's polar regions to its equatorial ecosystems. Our planet's climate affects--and is affected by--the sky, land, ice, sea, life and the people found on it. To piece together the entire puzzle of climate change--what we know, what we still have to learn and what humankind can do to prepare for the future--we must study all of the physical, natural and human systems that contribute to and interact with Earth's climate system.
As researchers piece together the climate puzzle, they are revolutionizing the way we understand the Earth system as a whole. Researchers have realized that they must reach across disciplinary boundaries to study questions that extend beyond any one field of science or engineering. In fact, because of the complexity of Earth's climate, this research involves contributions from nearly every field of science, math and engineering.
The science proving human-caused climate change is overwhelming. Republicans overwhelmingly ignore and deny what the science proves. So, with scientific reality so consistently demonstrating a liberal bias, the Republicans are trying to legislate that science away.