Euphemisms, Dysphemisms, and Playing Politics in Science Policy

It’s interesting to read Representative Lamar Smith’s statement on his circulating a draft bill to “improve accountability” at NSF.

Smith sees himself as ensuring accountability by “adding a layer” to NSF’s Merit Review Process, while also preserving that process (the direct quote of his characterization is that the bill “maintains the current peer review process and improves on it by adding a layer of accountability.”)

Others, however, see him as impinging on the integrity of the Merit Review Process — or even starting down the road to dismantling it.

I partially agree with one point that Smith makes in his statement about the matter. It will be a shame if this turns into a politicized debate, with Republicans on one side and Democrats on the other. This issue is too important to devolve into such petty politics.

I also agree that those of us who receive NSF funding should be accountable to Congress and the taxpayers who fund our research. But I think NSF’s recently revised Merit Review Process should be given a real chance to work before Congress intervenes in the way Smith is proposing.

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