Democratic Response to Cantor Defends Social Science Funding

Feb 7 '13

From Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology:

I’m starting to feel like a broken record but I’m just going to keep saying it – the social sciences are important.  They help us understand what we do, why we do what we do, and how we can do things better.  There is almost always a social sciences angle in the most important issues of the day like energy, national security, and health.  For example, in disaster preparedness and response preparation, the social sciences helps us understand how people respond to risk, and how they respond differently to different ways of communicating risk. This knowledge helps emergency management planners develop the most effective strategies for keeping members of their communities safe from natural disasters.  And then once the immediate danger has passed, social science helps us understand how individuals and communities respond to these highly stressful events over the long term.

The Political Science Program at NSF, funded at roughly $11 million per year, advances knowledge and understanding of citizenship, government, and politics.  Data from national longitudinal surveys help us understand the changing face of our own democracy and what can be done to promote civic engagement and voting among the general public.  I firmly believe that it is in the interest of the American taxpayers that their leaders understand what their constituents believe and why, and attend to removing barriers to participation in our great democracy.  Political science research supported by NSF also helps us understand foreign societies and governments, including the societies and governments of countries such as Iran and China.  When the leaders of countries such as Iran posture about war and nuclear weapons, is it not in the interest of the American taxpayer that our own nation’s leaders understand what is motivating those foreign leaders and where we have the most leverage to negotiate or take other actions?

I do agree with the Majority Leader that biomedical research is critically important to the health and well-being of our citizens. But I do not agree that federally funded research should be considered on an either/or basis.  Biomedical research is important, social science research is important, energy research is important, and defense research is important.  The list goes on and on. We need to be discussing how to fund all of this important scientific research, not how to get rid of it.

The press release is here.