The Next Frontier in the War over Science

A policy in the works was presented in this article that was published by the Huffington Post. Currently, when is comes to funding research federally, a board of scientists in the field peer-review all proposals. House representative Lamar Smith proposes a bill that would supposedly take away power from a board of scientists and give it to a board of politicians in congress. Many other significant changes are proposed in the bill in an attempt to make federal spending on research more efficient.

Taking power away from the experts in a field and giving it to politics is a scary idea. Are there any other fields where this is the case?

Did this article ever explain how the bill would give more power to congress and less to a peer-reviewing board? Is this an important piece of information?

Were there any voices missing in this piece, such as the maker of the bill? Were there any other bits of information missing?

How do you feel about the pace of the article? Was it geared heavily towards readers that are well informed on politics, grazing over topics and ideas, or towards average readers, explaining each facet of the proposal in depth?



5 Responses to “The Next Frontier in the War over Science”

  1. As a public policy student, this topic is particularly interesting to me. Specifically, I do find it troubling when political leaders who lack the expertise in a certain field, step in and attempt to control the purse strings and limit funding to causes that are absolutely worth the investment. In this article, I did feel that there were some voices missing. I would have liked to hear from more supporters of the bill, and more scientists who could better explain exactly why political meddling is concerning. I also think this article would be difficult for the average reader to fully understand. It would have been helpful for the journalist to have different stakeholders better explain their position, in addition to presenting a short statement on what has and has not worked in the past regarding this balance of federal funding and scientific research. I find the topic fascinating, but I do not necessarily think that the journalist nailed the reporting.

  2. I agree that it is a scary idea to turn over control to politicians, especially on a topic that they most likely do not understand. Decisions about science should be left to those that understand what is needed and what is going on and so I believe the scientists should keep this authority. I do not know of any other fields where it is the case that politicians are in charge offhand since I have not heard much on this topic before.

    I think it would have helped if the article explained more about how this would actually work and included more perspectives. I feel as though a lot of facts were given and quotes from very important people were included, however, I would like to see the point of view of some of the scientists who would be effected by this change, either positively or negatively. Their point of view did not seem apparent in this article and the article also seemed to focus more on the politics of everything and not really anything about how it would work.

    I found this article fairly hard to understand since I do not know much about politics and how it works. I believe the article included a great deal of information in not that many words and this has pros and cons. It is good that the article wasn’t too long and also contained a lot of information, however, it seemed as though topics weren’t explained well and a lot of the quotes included information that probably would not make sense to the average person, such as myself.

  3. Thanks for sharing Chris. For me, this article was hard to get through. I thought the author could have made the article more relatable to the average person, but, due to the word choices and the many abbreviations of companies and organizations I had never heard of, it was tedious to get through. I think something the author could have done to make this article more interesting would be to focus the story on how the bill is going to cut social science research. This was the most intriguing part of the article to me. The idea that only scientific research that focuses on economic development and advancement is very interesting and I think the writer could have used this fact to their advantage.

    I also believe the topic is of importance to many people who are involved in this type of work, but like I said, I think for the average person this article would probably not garner the same amount of interest. That being said, the author could include more information on how this bill would affect the average citizen and why people should care that social science research may be cut if this bill passes. When the issue becomes personal, especially when it relates to politics, people will start to care.

  4. Echoing earlier opinions, I thought the paper was a little bit hard to read. I think the author would have done to create more concrete examples and explain exactly what the bill would be implementing instead of a peer-review system. For example, will the politicians consult within government scientists? It seems ludicrous to think that politicians would make these judgments by themselves without any scientific consulting, but then again I can’t say I’d be too surprised.
    As a biology student who has been involved with research for 3 years, I have to say that this would be an awful decision. Peer-review is fantastic because the people reviewing possible future projects and giving feedback are experts who spend a majority of every work day in that specific field. Why would a scientist turn project control over to somebody who hasn’t worked in a research lab a day in their life?

  5. I got a very biased impression from this article, however, I find that it’s hard to blame the author for it. I do think that explaining what the peer review process is and how it is used currently would have been helpful. It’s something that I imagine the people that they interviewed found so intuitive that they wouldn’t have taken the time to elaborate on it themselves, but they could have pressed for a simple explanation or looked up a credible online resource explaining how papers and proposals are reviewed. I found the phrase “in a show of protest that several officials in the science advocacy community could not recall having witnessed before” to be very weak for the start of a paragraph. If they haven’t seen it before they haven’t seen it before, if they can’t remember, I don’t think it’s worth paraphrasing. Her direct quote further down (“I don’t know if it is unprecedented but it is at least extremely unusual”) is much more impactful because it gives us the sense of shock that the speaker experienced even if he is effectively saying nothing.
    I’ll join the choir and agree that the whole concept is disturbing. The government already invests far more money into engineering, does it need to pull from other research funds to invest more? Other statistics that I would like to see are things like how likely it is that such a bill would be passed, and what does the National Science Boards statement really mean in terms of the bill moving forward?
    Overall an interesting topic and certainly one to spur discussions.

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