Why We Must Act

Recently, the House of Representatives passed HR 3293, a bill that requires the National Science Foundation to only award grants that are “in the national interest”. The bill is short; I encourage you to read it.

You may look at that requirement and say, “Well, yes, of course. Why are we even passing a law about this? Isn’t this already what the NSF does?” Well, not from the viewpoint of Republican leadership. From their viewpoint, every piece of science should be approved – not by scientists, but by politicians. This bill is not about ensuring that the US benefits from science; it is about the ability to block grants and assign blame. It is about nationalism of the most cowardly sort.

This is the explicit politicization of the NSF.

It doesn’t matter whether you think that science shouldn’t be political. For the Republican leadership, it already is political. Their efforts to control the EPA and NSF are pure politics. We cannot fight this in peer-reviewed journals that Republican leadership does not read or respect. We cannot fight this in Senate and House hearings where we are not respected. Politics does an end-run around the scientific process, and everyone who has been in a poorly-run academic department knows it.

We can fight this through constant public work, public engagement, marching in the streets, writing letters, calling, showing up in person, and keeping the pressure on for the next two, four, or eight years. We can fight this by educating children.

We can do what we do best: RESEARCH. Learn the tactics that work best and replicate them.

Do not imagine that the NSF will be where Republican leadership stops. Do not wait for this to happen to NASA, NIH, NOAA, the FDA, to every agency that should depend on and advance scientific knowledge.

Marching is just one kind of action: very public, hard to ignore. We should do that – and we must do so, so much more in addition. We can win, but silence will win us nothing.


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