Political scientists are the next in line to feel the pinch as the US government tightens its belt. Due to last-minute language added to the 2013 omnibus spending bill by Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the National Science Foundation canceled the rest of its funding for political science for the rest of the year.Political scientists are blaming… politicians:
“It’s hard to imagine that it’s not a factor in the decision,” says Michael Brintnall, executive director of the American Political Science Association in Washington DC, who describes the funding cut as “troubling”. Brintnall says that the NSF notified him about the cancellation on 25 July. Other calls for funding in the NSF division of social, behavioural and economic sciences — which includes political science — are continuing as usual.The NSF’s decision removes one of the main financial lifelines for political-science research. “This is somewhere between devastating and crippling,” says Henry Farrell, a political scientist at George Washington University in Washington DC and an author of the Monkey Cage, a widely read political-science blog. But Farrell blames the political climate rather than the funding agency for the cut. “The NSF is in an extremely awkward situation,” he says.
Well, yes, it is due to ‘politics’ in a sense. But political scientists should know better: university faculties ultimately depend on taxpayers and their representatives for many of the resources they need for their work. This fact of life is truer than ever when health care and other costs are forcing discretionary spending down. Funding for political science is just another budget line item that needs to be justified. Writing obscure articles for peer-reviewed journals that nobody, not even other people in your discipline, will read is not the best way to do that.And here’s another thought: making departments in social sciences and other disciplines more welcoming to political conservatives and—horrors!—seriously religious people may help build that bipartisan support without which federal funds will be increasingly hard to get.