(Open) Letter to Congress about Political Science and “Science” (in response to this appeal from the AAAS):
I’m writing you to ask you to oppose the Coburn-McCain amendment to the FY 2013 appropriations bill (H.R. 933) to continue funding the government through the remainder of the fiscal year. The amendment (SA 65) would eliminate $10 million for the NSF political science research program and transfer $7 million to the NIH National Cancer Institute. As a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), I’m very concerned that such an attitude is being taken in our nation’s capital. While political science is not as flashy as cancer research, given the fact that cancer–like many or most of the diseases and problems of today–has as much to do with social behaviors, institutions, and policies as it does with “the medicine”, continued high-quality political science is an imperative need for our nation and our future. In my own research area, food and sustainability, for example it is *very* well-established that political rights and institutions are a bigger determinant of whether or not someone will go hungry than simple caloric availability or agricultural production. And cancer survival has a lot to do with early screening and quality of care that many of our citizens cannot afford or get access to; cancer is also connected to the quality of our environment, and thousands of cancer deaths a year could be averted if policies were effective in containing and properly costing pollution and production of carcinogenic and possibly carcinogenic substances.
I submit to you that the “cures” to these problems has as much or more to do with our abilities to effectively understanding *political* science as it does with medical cancer science. It is imperative that we strongly support political science and avenues for improving the representation and responsiveness to our own citizens; otherwise, all the science in the world will only allow some people to get access to the rights and health all deserve.
Please protect the integrity of the scientific enterprise by ensuring that NSF and its independent scientific panels determine where the best scientific opportunities are, including in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences.
M. Jahi Chappell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Justice, School of the Environment
Associate Director for Research, Center for Social and Environmental Justice
Faculty Affiliate, Program in Public Affairs
Washington State University Vancouver
Vancouver, WA 98686
Tel: (360) 546-9413
Fax: (360) 546-9064
Faculty Page: http://directory.vancouver.wsu.edu/people/michael-chappell
Chappell Lab: https://agroecopeople.wordpress.com/
(opinions here are of course my own and do not necessarily represent that of WSU or any other organization with which I am affiliated)
From: AAAS/Science <email@example.com>
Date: Monday, March 18, 2013 6:07 AM
Subject: Urgent Message to Section K Regarding Political Science Funding
Dear Member of the AAAS Section on Social, Economic, and Political Sciences (Section K):
As some of you may be aware, Senators Coburn and McCain have introduced an amendment for consideration as part of the FY 2013 appropriations bill (H.R. 933) to continue funding the government through the remainder of the fiscal year. The amendment (SA 65) would eliminate $10 million for the NSF political science research program and transfer $7 million to the NIH National Cancer Institute.
It is uncertain whether this particular amendment will even be considered on the Senate floor as there are over 100 amendments filed, and the Senate must finalize the appropriations soon before the existing continuing resolution expires on March 27. AAAS has issued a letter in support of NSF political science research to the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
If you are concerned about the future of political science research funded by NSF, please consider sending a message to your Senator (www.senate.gov) by March 18 urging him/her to oppose the amendment. Some additional points you may wish to make include:
• The amendment sets up a false dichotomy between medical research and research in the social sciences.
• Every major issue affecting modern society and every major issue affecting our economic competitiveness will ultimately be multidisciplinary in nature, requiring the integration of the physical sciences and biological sciences with the social and behavioral sciences, including political science. [Include a note related to your research and how it relates to society.]
Protect the integrity of the scientific enterprise by ensuring that NSF and its independent scientific panels determine where the best scientific opportunities are, including in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences.
Joanne Padrón Carney
Director, Office of Government Relations
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1200 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Ph: (202) 326-6798
Thank you Jahi for taking time to write this letter to Senator Murray. While I agree that working towards a medical cure for cancer is indeed a good use of NSF research funds I do not agree that it is MORE important than social science research, which is the value judgement being made by the proposers of SA 65. Although J. Carney points out it is entirely possible this amendment never makes it to the floor for a vote, I find it unsettling that it was even proposed. While anyone is biologically susceptible to cancer, occurrences are not random and neither are the factors that contribute to observed patterns. Funneling funds away from the social to the medical is like trying to heal a wound with a dirty bandage. I have no doubt the medical community has the capability and deep desire to develop an effective cure for cancer but understanding the social component is the only way to provide a clean bandage.