On May 2, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director John Holdren offered a strong public defense of merit review in federal research funding and of the important role of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in supporting all areas of science and engineering, including the social sciences.
Holdren’s remarks followed several related congressional actions: the inclusion of language in the FY13 continuing resolution that requires the NSF director to certify that any political science research that the agency funds demonstrate national security or economic value; a recent draft proposal in the House aimed at adding extra criteria to the NSF grant review process; and a letter from House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sent to the leadership of NSF asking for background information on five specific NSF grants.
Holdren told an audience at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences annual forum on science & technology policy that no system of deciding what research the federal government should fund will succeed perfectly. But the system used by NSF, the National Institutes of Health and other agencies “has made that peer-review-based process the gold standard, recognized around the world," stated Holdren. Citing the President’s National Academy of Sciences speech on Monday, he said the Administration will do everything it can to protect that gold standard and, as the President said, ensure “that our scientific research does not fall victim to political maneuvers or agendas that in some ways would impact on the integrity of the process.”