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KU political science chairman offers take on Senate vote to cut NSF funding


When I saw last week that the budget bill approved by the U.S. Senate would severely limit National Science Foundation funding for political science, I wondered: Hmmm, how will KU political science researchers feel about this?

I emailed the chairman of KU's political science department, Don Haider-Markel, for some quick thoughts. Here they are, in short:

Haider-Markel said the Senate's vote, if it goes into effect, will have a "chilling effect" on political science and social science research in general, but the biggest loss would be some projects collecting data on American politics that have been going on for decades.

For instance, he said, one survey called the American National Election Studies has been collecting information about American voters every two years since the late 1940s, and the Senate vote would eliminate it, Haider-Markel said. The vote would bar all NSF funds for political science unless it's for research essential to the country's interests.

"The ANES has fostered an incredible amount of research that has vastly improved our understanding of everything from who votes and why to how citizens evaluate candidates, and citizen attitudes about a whole variety of political issues," Haider-Markel wrote. "Most importantly, having this data over time allows us to observe and understand changes in American politics, including things like trust in government, party identification and ideological identification."

I hope to look deeper into how this move might affect the work KU researchers do, but there's something to think about for now.

KU does not have any active NSF political science grants, according to this map on the agency's website. But a KU professor of political science, Erik Herron, is serving for two years as one of two program directors for the NSF's Political Science Program, which handles grant proposals. I emailed Herron as well, but he (politely) directed my inquiry to a spokeswoman.

Don't forget to stop by Heard on the Hill Office Hours tomorrow, 9 a.m. to noon in the Media Crossroads at the Kansas Union. You could just send your KU news tips to merickson@ljworld.com as usual, but if you come see me in person you can use the volume of your voice to convey the importance of your story. Think about that.


yourworstnightmare 4 years, 9 months ago

"KU does not have any active NSF political science grants..."

I guess this measure won't hurt KU. It will only hurt successful political science programs.

TalkSense 4 years, 9 months ago

The issue transcends whether KU itself receives such funding. There's an important principle at stake. Here's how AAU President Hunter Rawlings put it on Monday: "Rather than cut all funding for NSF political science research, as Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) had originally proposed, the compromise language bars political science studies except those that the NSF Director certifies demonstrate national security value or economic benefit. The impact of this provision will depend in part on how broadly the NSF Director interprets the language. But its inclusion in the spending bill will likely encourage new congressional efforts to dictate specific research spending, particularly in the social and behavioral sciences. We believe this provision is a fundamental abrogation of the government-university partnership and the mission of NSF to fund basic research across all disciplines of physical, biological, and social science and engineering. We will make every effort to undo this extremely damaging precedent." The principle at stake is similar to the Kansas Legislature's current proposal to "direct" KU to create an adult stem cell research center, i.e., is it good public policy to have politicians - through partisan actions affecting research funding - telling university faculty what they can and cannot investigate?

rtwngr 4 years, 9 months ago

The government cannot fund everything and this is something that private enterprises like Pew Research, Gallup, and Rasmussen can do without government funding.

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