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WASHINGTON — If Republicans have their way, a Harvard University anthropologist would not be using tax dollars to study the impact of China’s one-child policy. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology political scientist would not have the money to research how Medicare changes might shape seniors’ political attitudes. And a Brown University archeologist would not be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars examining textiles from the Viking Age.
This is the latest front in a GOP-led war against the federal funding of social science and other research, including the study of climate change, in an age of fiscal austerity. House Republicans are questioning millions of dollars in National Science Foundation grants awarded to researchers across the country by singling out dozens of projects for extra scrutiny.
Golden Fleece Award
Proxmire was noted for issuing his Golden Fleece Award., which was presented monthly between 1975 and 1988, in order to focus media attention on projects Proximire viewed as self-serving and wasteful of taxpayer dollars. The first Golden Fleece Award was awarded in 1975 to the National Science Foundation, for funding an $84,000 study on why people fall in love. Other Golden Fleece awards over the years were awarded to the Justice Department for conducting a study on why prisoners wanted to get out of jail, the National Institute of Mental Health to study a Peruvian brothel ("The researchers said they made repeated visits in the interests of accuracy," reported The New York Times), and the Federal Aviation Administration, for studying "the physical measurements of 432 airline stewardesses, paying special attention to the 'length of the buttocks.'"
Proxmire's critics claimed that some of his awards went to basic science projects that led to important breakthroughs. In some circles his name has become a verb, meaning to unfairly obstruct scientific research for political gain, as in "the project has been proxmired". In 1987, Stewart Brand accused Proxmire of recklessly attacking legitimate research for the crass purpose of furthering his own political career, with gross indifference as to whether his assertions were true or false as well as the long-term effects on American science and technology policy. Proxmire later apologized for several cancelled projects, including SETI.
One winner of the Golden Fleece Award, Ronald Hutchinson, sued Proxmire for defamation in 1976. Proxmire claimed that his statements about Hutchinson's research were protected by the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that that clause does not immunize members of Congress from liability for defamatory statements made outside of formal congressional proceedings (Hutchinson v. Proxmire, 443 U.S. 111 (1979)). The case was eventually settled out of court.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the Chairman of the House Science Committee on Science, Space and Technology has repeatedly denounced the National Science Foundation for squandering taxpayer money on frivolous research. Now he's gone a step further, demanding personal political scrutiny of peer-reviewed research grants.
Smith has used several hearings this year as an opportunity to publicly lambast the National Science Foundation (NSF)—including a combative March 26 hearing where he lectured White House Science Advisor John Holdren on the "lack of transparency and accountability at the agency" by singling out grants such as a study of the ecological consequences of early human-set fires in New Zealand. (That research promises to yield insights into anthropogenic climate change—not a popular topic for Smith and fellow GOP representatives on the committee.)
originally posted by: guitarplayer
a reply to: Willtell
How about the senate finally being able to pass bills that Dingy Harry has not allowed to be voted on? How many bills does he have on his desk? Somewhere around 300. Maybe we will finally get a budget and not continuing spending resolutions.
originally posted by: macman
a reply to: jimmyx
Ahhhh, who said I was for or against that??
Seems the VA under 0bama was pushing to remove health care for vets....
Dude, honestly. You and your side were shown the door last night.
Your excuses and whining don't really matter much.
originally posted by: ketsuko
a reply to: ripcontrol
Because the most important thing about who we send into space is how they have sex not how qualified they are?
This is stupid, and it should backfire on democrats.