All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
Other files and links
In: Issues in Science and Technology, Vol. 34, No. 4, 2018, p. 27-29.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Comment/debate › peer-review
TY - JOUR
T1 - Philosopher’s corner
T2 - What is science in the national interest?
AU - Holbrook, J. Britt
N1 - Funding Information: a different approach. Whereas Bush had strongly advocated scientific autonomy, Steelman argued for a much larger role for government in managing the research enterprise and linking it to national needs. Neither approach fully won the day, though the NSF created in 1950 more resembled the Bush than the Steelman proposal, preserving a great deal of autonomy for the scientific community to determine which research should receive public funds. A February 16, 2016, New York Times editorial, “The Chirp Heard Across the Universe,” joined this battle over science policy. It opined that the discovery of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) demonstrated that the enhancement of human knowledge needs no additional justification. LIGO was “simply cool” and clearly showed the value of the 40-year, $1.1 billion NSF investment. The point of the editorial, however, was not primarily to celebrate LIGO’s discovery. Instead, it was to criticize a bill introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Smith’s Scientific Research in the National Interest Act was supposed to make NSF and the researchers who receive its funding more accountable to the US taxpayer. Smith’s notion of accountability would be satisfied, in part, by requiring researchers to articulate in nontechnical language the benefits to society of their research. Although such a requirement had been in place since October 1997, when NSF began making “broader impacts” one of the criteria applied in assessing research proposals, Smith’s bill would also have required researchers to explain how their grants were “in the national interest.” A list of activities that would satisfy the requirement was also provided. The Times editorial claimed that requiring NSF grants to be justified in terms of their being in the national interest would amount to “political meddling” of the sort that would have killed LIGO funding. Smith was quick to respond: “Contrary to your suggestion, the LIGO project would certainly fall under the legislation’s national interest definition to ‘promote the progress of science in the United States.’” Despite the fact that they disagreed about how to justify the claim, both the Times and Smith agreed that LIGO had been worth funding.
PY - 2018
Y1 - 2018
UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85065592660&partnerID=8YFLogxK
UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85065592660&partnerID=8YFLogxK
M3 - Comment/debate
AN - SCOPUS:85065592660
SN - 0748-5492
VL - 34
SP - 27
EP - 29
JO - Issues in Science and Technology
JF - Issues in Science and Technology
IS - 4