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Mandating Scientific Discovery Never Works But politicians can’t seem to grasp that.

GOP decides that research should be legislated. Usual nonsense.

By Lawrence Krauss|Posted Friday, June 21, 2013, at 7:30 AM

I’m often asked what the “next big breakthrough” in physics will be. My answer is always the same: “If I knew, I would be working on it right now!” By the same token, politicians cannot determine in advance what discoveries will be important any more than the scientists themselves can.

You would think that in the 21st century the clear benefits of peer-reviewed, curiosity-driven scientific research in the developed world would be so clear that we wouldn’t need to proactively work to protect the integrity of the scientific process from control by partisan politicians. As the landmark 2007 National Academy of Sciences Report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm described, for example, perhaps 50 percent of the current GDP in industrialized countries is a product of fundamental research performed a generation ago.

Yet, recent developments in both Canada and the United States chillingly suggest that legislators still don’t get it. You can foster scientific discovery by providing an environment for the best and brightest to most effectively exploit their talents to address those questions that seem most compelling to those most knowledgeable in their fields. But you can’t legislate it.

Last month, as Phil Plait has also discussed in Slate, Texas Republican Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, proposed legislation that would effectively undermine the peer-review process for prioritizing research at the nation’s prime supporter of fundamental research, the National Science Foundation, and ultimately at all federal science agencies. It follows on an earlier successful effort by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to attach language to a 2013 spending bill that prohibits the NSF from funding political science research for the rest of the year unless the NSF director certifies that it pertains to economic development or national security.

Smith also accompanied his proposed bill with a letter to the NSF acting director Cora Marrett asking to see the documentation on five specific NSF grants that he suggested might not meet the criteria his bill demanded.

Smith’s bill is also probably motivated by the effort to restrict social science research, but it is written much more broadly. It would require the NSF director to certify that a research project meets three criteria before awarding a grant to fund the project:

“(1) is in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science;

(2) is the finest quality, is ground breaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large, and;

(3) is not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other federal science agencies.”

This proposed legislation, misleadingly called the High Quality Research Act, effectively requires the NSF director to predict which research will be groundbreaking and which will most benefit society.


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Replies to This Discussion

They probably don't want any research  that will counter their preconceived notions of reality.

Always be wary of the GOP and especially of its xians. They have for decades been trying to remake an America with an aristocratic class and a laboring class. Limiting science is one of their tactics.

I'm tired of the duolopy of the R's and D's.

Fucktard probably wants to mandate education where the earth is 6K years old.


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