The American Anthropological Association strongly opposes the amendment authored by Senator Coburn (R-OK) to the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013. The amendment, which prohibits the National Science Foundation (NSF) from funding political science research, demonstrates a considerable misunderstanding of the need for such scholarship. It significantly undermines academic freedom, as well as the value of social science research sponsored by federal agencies.
The American Anthropological Association is the world's largest professional organization of anthropologists. Founded in 1902, the AAA represents over 11,000 members, a number of whom are grateful recipients of NSF grant awards. NSF-sponsored research projects completed by our members have made noteworthy contributions to our nation's knowledge about environmental and cultural resource protection, reducing disparities in health care, and accelerating educational reform, among others.
The Coburn amendment effectively eliminates the NSF Political Science Program for the rest of this fiscal year. Political science research has, for decades, provided valuable insights about effective public policies concerning international relations, healthcare and health care delivery, human rights, and reinventing government.
As fellow social scientists, anthropologists are aware of the misguided idea that the social sciences have little to contribute to national dialogues. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our nation's funding for social science research enhances our fundamental understanding of people in society, is highly valued by its citizens, and demonstrates the importance of sound, comprehensive and thorough research.Eliminating funding for such research is not only misguided, but sends the unfortunate message that any research is valuable only if it has a direct short-term payoff for enhancing national security or jobs. That assumption is, simply put, short-sighted and wrong.
The American Anthropological Association urges Congress to do everything in its power to restore funding for political science research at the National Science Foundation in the FY2014 budget and appropriations cycle.