Magazine article Issues in Science and Technology

Role of Government in Social Science Research Funding Questioned

Magazine article Issues in Science and Technology

Role of Government in Social Science Research Funding Questioned

Article excerpt

On June 2, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a hearing to explore the government's role in funding social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) science research. Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL) said the goal of the hearing was not to question the merits of the SBE sciences, but to ask whether the government should support these "soft sciences."

Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) said that support for NSF's Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences must continue, because the research funded is critical to programs such as disaster relief, benefits multiple government agencies and society, and is not funded elsewhere.

Myron Gutmann, assistant director of the SBE directorate, and Hillary Anger Elfenbein, associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis, supported Lipinski s statement by touting the social and fiscal value of various directorate grants. Guttman pointed to a study of auction mechanisms that was used by the Federal Communications Commission in developing auctions of spectrum, which she said ultimately netted the U.S. Treasury $54 billion. Gutmann cited another National Institutes of Health (NIH) study on economic matching theory that lead to better matching of organ donors and recipients, resulting in an increase in the number of organs available for transplant and saving lives. He argued that if funding is cut for SBE research, society will be deprived of solutions to its problems.

Elfenbein stressed that the application of basic research within the purview of the NIH directorate is often unknown and can take years to be realized. …

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