Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lamar Smith's attack on NSF a thinly veiled attempt to suppress environmental education

It's no secret that Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the Science, Space and Technology committee, has been waging a war on the National Science Foundation. See hereherehere and here. In a 2013 piece in USA Today, Smith, writing with Eric Cantor stated:
While the NSF spends most of its funds well, we have recently seen far too many questionable grants, especially in the social, behavioral and economic sciences. 
A link to a more complete list of the suspect grants on which Smith requested information can be found here. It's interesting that among the questionable grants, a sizable fraction of them concern public communication of environmental information, including climate change.  In fact, eco-related projects account for more than half ($16.9M) of the $26M in funding handed out by the NSF for "questionable" research.  Place this observation in the context of how much "waste" is actually under question--$26M is in the ballpark of 0.05% of NSF's budget for the 8-year time window over which the "questionable" grants were handed out--and it is quite clear that this is not about trimming waste.  It's about promoting a political agenda by suppressing the dissemination of information on environmental issues, particularly climate change.  

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