Bookmark and Share

Scientific Societies, Universities Write to Lawmakers in Defense of Peer Review

July 2011

The Honorable Harold Rogers Chairman, House Appropriations H-307, U.S. Capitol Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Norman Dicks Ranking Member, House Appropriations 1016 Longworth House Office Building Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Rogers & Ranking Member Dicks,

As representatives of U.S. science, engineering, and higher education organizations, we write to you in strong support for the federal research and development budget of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and its mission—created over 60 years ago—to advance research across a broad spectrum of disciplines, research that has fueled American economic growth for decades.

NSF is unique among federal agencies in that it supports all disciplines in a balanced portfolio that uses the scientific peer review system as the foundation for awarding research grants based on merit.

Unfortunately, NSF research is now being threatened by attempts to trivialize specific research grants and to challenge the scientific merit review process. As you prepare to debate the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012, the undersigned organizations stand in strong opposition to legislative attempts to undermine the peer review process by seeking to defund research grants that have already been awarded after extensive evaluation by independent scientific review panels.

Furthermore, we strongly oppose attempts to eliminate or substantially reduce funding for specific areas of science such as the NSF Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE).

In 2006, Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, testified before the Senate in support of NSF SBE research: “Every major issue facing modern society and every major issue facing our economic competitiveness will ultimately be multidisciplinary in nature…[requiring] the integration of the physical sciences or biological sciences with the social and behavioral sciences.”

We would like to highlight some specific examples that demonstrate the interdependence of scientific fields and their contribution to society. The revolution in computer technology and the transformation of analog data into digital records are opening up new opportunities to bridge the biological and social sciences, leading to new partnerships and collaborations that will improve the interpretation of brain imaging. In addition, this country will be investing millions of dollars in new technology over the coming decade, and the technology must be designed with humans in mind (i.e., cognitive limitations, errors in judgment, responses to stress and organizational climate) to avoid wasting limited resources.

Furthermore, social scientists, working with computer scientists, have developed Geographical Information Systems (GIS). As an example of technology transfer, this in turn created a multi-billion dollar GIS industry. The research supported in the mid-1980s at the NSF-funded National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) has been applied by states, counties, and localities for many purposes, from urban planning to disaster response, evidenced in New York City during the September 11, 2001, attacks and the creation of thousands of maps to assist in the aftermath. Simply put, we need all scientists and scientific disciplines working — alone and together — to advance our knowledge base.

We recognize the challenge that our nation faces in addressing the deficit and revitalizing our national economy; however, defunding specific grants or eliminating entire sets of disciplines, such as those represented by the SBE program, sets a dangerous precedent that, in the end, will inhibit scientific progress and our international competitiveness. Congress must exercise its oversight responsibilities, but second-guessing the scientific process could have a chilling effect on scientists and young people considering a future in science. The country cannot afford to lose the incredible talent, experience, and energies of its scientists, regardless of their discipline.

The undersigned organizations urge you to protect the integrity of the scientific enterprise by ensuring that the NSF and its independent scientific panels determine where the best scientific opportunities are and how to absorb any potential reductions to its budget. Allocating federal investments competitively through scientific merit review is the very process that has led this country to be the world leader in science. We encourage you to provide Congressional oversight by protecting that process rather than allowing others to threaten a critical contributor to our innovative spirit and knowledge base.


Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America American Academy of Environmental Engineers American Association for Public Opinion Research American Association for the Advancement of Science American Association of Anatomists American Association of Physics Teachers American Biological Safety Association American Chemical Society American Economic Association American Educational Research Association American Historical Association American Institute of Biological Sciences American Mathematical Society American Physical Society American Physiological Society American Political Science Association American Psychological Association American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology American Society for Engineering Education American Society of Agronomy American Society of Civil Engineers American Society of Plumbing Engineers American Sociological Association American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) American Statistical Association APMI International Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. Arizona State University Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) Association for Psychological Science Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Association for Women in Mathematics Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Association of American Geographers Association of American Medical Colleges Association of American Universities Association of Independent Research Institutes (AIRI) Association of Population Centers Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Association of Research Libraries Behavior Genetics Association Binghamton University, State University of New York Biophysical Society Brown University Cognitive Science Society Columbia University Computing Research Association Consortium of Social Science Associations Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science Council of Environmental Deans and Directors Council on Undergraduate Research Crop Science Society of America Duke University Ecological Society of America Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences Florida State University Geochemical Society Geological Society of America Georgia Institute of Technology History of Science Society Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Indiana University Institute of Food Technologists International Society for Developmental Psychobiology Law and Society Association LEARN Coalition Linguistic Society of America Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts Neuropsychological Society Materials Research Society Mathematical Association of America Michigan State University Midwest Political Science Association NAFSA: Association of International Educators National Academy of Neuropsychology National Center for Women & Informational Technology (NCWIT) National Communication Association National Council for Science and the Environment National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) National Opinion Research Center (NORC) Natural Science Collections Alliance New York University North American Regional Science Council North Carolina State University Northern Illinois University Oregon State University Ornithological Council Penn State University Population Association of America Psychonomic Society Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Research!America Rural Sociological Society Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Social Science Research Council Society for Anthropological Sciences Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Society for Computers in Psychology (SCiP) Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Society for Judgment and Decision Making Society for Mathematical Psychology Society for Neuroscience Society for Personality and Social Psychology Society for Psychophysiological Research (SPR) Society for Research in Child Development Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues Society of Experimental Social Psychology Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology Soil Science Society of America SPIE, The International Society for Optics and Photonics Stanford University Stony Brook University, State University of New York The Electrochemical Society The Ohio State University The Science Coalition Tulane University U.S. Public Policy Council of the Association for Computing Machinery (USACM) UCLA University at Buffalo University of California Berkeley University of California Davis University of California Irvine University of California Merced University of California Riverside University of California San Diego University of California San Francisco University of California Santa Barbara University of California Santa Cruz University of California System University of Chicago University of Idaho University of Kansas University of Michigan University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill University of Oregon University of Pittsburgh University of Virginia University of Wisconsin-Madison Vanderbilt University Washington University in St. Louis Yale University


Understanding Science