NSF Turns Down Congressman’s Request for Reviewer Comments

The National Science Foundation has turned down a request from Rep. Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who leads the U.S. House of Representatives’ science committee, to obtain reviewer comments on five social-science projects the agency is financing. The NSF’s refusal marks the latest turn in a continuing fight over the agency’s spending on research. President Obama signed legislation, approved by Congress in March as part of a budget bill, to restrict the agency’s support for political-science research unless the work promotes the United States’ national-security or economic interests. Mr. Smith has proposed extending that requirement to all research that the NSF finances.

In a statement, Smith tells ScienceInsider, “I am disappointed the NSF declined to provide Congress with additional information that would show why they are spending taxpayer dollars on specific research grants.” A committee aide says that, earlier this year, NSF officials told the committee to submit a letter describing the information it was seeking and that today’s NSF response “is at variance with that conversation.”

At the same time, the aide sees NSF’s letter as a temporary bump on the road to obtaining the reviewer comments. “We are working through the problem,” says the aide.

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