Excising Waste Fraud & Abuse from the Federal Budget: Dr. Tom Punks Political Science
"In 2007, NSF issued a directive to emphasize the transformative nature of NSF‟s research. This directive requires every proposal to explain how it will provide transformative concepts. Again, it is a stretch to claim that the any of the political science research being funded by NSF qualifies as transformative.I placed Tom Coburn's picture on the right for a reason. Dr. Tom has offered an amendment to the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill which would eliminate the National Science Foundation's political science program. This has put many of my colleagues into a tizzy - with emails imploring me (among many others) to contact my Senators and so forth.
During this time of economic challenges, few taxpayers, in fact, would believe that the NSF‟s political science program is contributing to our nation‟s ability to meet future challenges in science, engineering, or innovation." - Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R - Oklahoma)
You can read the text of read Dr. Tom's amendment here. Now, it seems clear to me that Dr. Tom has no clue what "real science" is. But that is true too of both the Social Science Directorate at NSF and the vast majority of my colleagues here at Rochester and elsewhere. There is lot's of talk about science in a sort of honorific way - used mostly to dismiss research and writing by those of us deemed un-scientific. But mostly, too, what we get are diffuse gestures toward a vaguely positivist - and so laughable - sketch of the scientific enterprise. And when, as has happened to me on many occasions, one asks just what political science might amount to, what you get are patronizing looks. It surely will not look like anything "transformative" because that would involve engaging with politics and policy in a sustained way. And scientists on the positivist view surely cannot do that!
But Dr. Tom looked and saw that what is happening in political science (at least as funded by NSF) does not match his view of science insofar as it tends not to yield engineering applications. And, to him, anything that looked vaguely as if it might make contact with real world politics smelled an awful lot to him like, well, politics.
I do not support Coburn's know-nothing views. And I will contact my Senators. (One might ask why he is not out there castigating his fellow Republicans when they question evolution or climate science, but that is another quesiton.) But political scientists have asked for this. It will be interesting to see what they say beyond "it is to a science!"