The American Institute of Physics and five of its Member Societies - the American Astronomical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Geophysical Union, APS Physics, and the Optical Society of America – joined more than 120 organizations in signing a letter to the Senate regarding FY 2013 funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The letter, written by the Coalition for National Science Funding, urges strong support for the research and development budget at the NSF while opposing “legislative attempts to micromanage NSF and undermine the merit review process by singling out specific programs for elimination as recently occurred in the House.”
While advocating for NSF’s support of all disciplines “in a balanced portfolio that uses the scientific peer review system as the foundation for awarding research grants based on merit,” the letter also recognizes the challenges “in addressing the deficit and revitalizing our national economy.”
The letter explains:
“Eliminating support for specific disciplines, such as the House did with respect to political science, sets a dangerous precedent that, in the end, will inhibit scientific progress and restrain our international competitiveness economically and with regard to national security. Congress should exercise its oversight responsibilities, but second-guessing the scientific process could have a chilling effect on scientists and young people considering a future in science. The country cannot afford to lose the incredible talent, experience, and energies of its scientists, regardless of their discipline.”
During House consideration of the FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill, an amendment to reduce the foundation’s budget by $1.2 billion was rejected. The House did approve an amendment to eliminate funding for the NSF’s Climate Change Education Program and its Political Science Program in the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences. This bill is now pending in the Senate.
The CNSF letter includes a statement asking the Senate to ensure “that the NSF and its independent scientific panels determine where the best scientific opportunities are and how to absorb any potential reductions to its budget.” It closes by addressing the allocation of federal investments competitively through scientific merit review “we encourage you to provide congressional oversight by protecting that process rather than allowing others to threaten critical contributions to our innovative spirit and knowledge base.”