The Chilling Effects of Politicized Science

YouCut, a project of the Congressional Republican caucus to solicit citizen feedback on federal spending, has taken aim on the National Science Foundation. The video above features Congressman Adrian Smith marshaling incendiary innuendo and half-truth to impugn research funded by the NSF.

It’s entirely desirable that the public be better informed about the goals of scientific research. But this sort of mincing, coded, ill-informed presentation isn’t about accountability or scientific literacy—and it’s not really about balancing the budget, either. According to my back-of-the-envelope figuring, NSF’s 2011 budget request of $7.4 million represents about two-tenths of one percent of Obama’s 2011 budget proposal. The amount spent on defense alone will be one hundred times larger.

As for Smith’s innuendos about video games and soccer teams, they’re simply irresponsible. The research on soccer players, for instance, offers insights into the efficient working of teams in many situations, including work places and community groups. Maybe Congress could try learning from such research instead of defaming it in populist rants calculated to score cheap political points.

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