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Lamar Smith Chairs House Science Committee
May 1, 2013 8:30 AM   Subscribe

The U.S. House has appointed SOPA architect and climate change skeptic Lamar Smith (R-TX) to chair the House Science Committee. His initial proposal (pdf) would strip the peer-review requirement from the NSF grant process and restrict grants to “groundbreaking” research. posted by jeffburdges (148 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Brilliant, let's promote STEM education while disregarding evidence for climate change. He probably thinks evolution isn't real either.
posted by exogenous at 8:37 AM on May 1, 2013


Well this is the guy to do it if you look at Harrison Bergeron as prescriptive rather than dystopian.
posted by Mister_A at 8:40 AM on May 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


Wow!
posted by dougzilla at 8:40 AM on May 1, 2013


Putting a Christian Scientist in charge of funding scientific research is like putting a Ptolemaic geocentrist in charge of the space program.
posted by elizardbits at 8:41 AM on May 1, 2013 [54 favorites]


Srsly am I just getting old and curmudgeonly or is everything genuinely going to hell in a hand basket
posted by ook at 8:41 AM on May 1, 2013 [37 favorites]


It could be both, ook, which will confound you to no end!
posted by Mister_A at 8:42 AM on May 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well, that was kind of a fun republic we had going for a little while.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:43 AM on May 1, 2013 [17 favorites]


What the I don't even for fuck's sake cheesus and rice on a stick.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:43 AM on May 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't see the probl...oh, he's not in charge of just his own idiotic state?
posted by DU at 8:45 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a really great way to fund crap studies with predetermined outcomes!
posted by Mister_A at 8:45 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re: the link that says "more likely to publish faked research than scientists from elsewhere"

The conclusion appears to be from absolute numbers of papers retracted due to fraud. It would be interesting to see a percentage comparison of papers retracted vs papers published by country.
posted by dragonfruit at 8:45 AM on May 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


If he's so smart, Lamar Smith should be compelled to prove it by doing a science! NOW!!
posted by Mister_A at 8:46 AM on May 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


And some Republicans are genuinely vexed as to why vast majorities of scientists and academics are Democrats.
posted by graphnerd at 8:48 AM on May 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


I miss the Cold War.
posted by Westringia F. at 8:48 AM on May 1, 2013 [32 favorites]


The genesis of the NSF [wikipedia]:
With [the Manhattan Project's] dissolution, [Vannevar] Bush and others had hoped that an equivalent peacetime government research and development agency would replace the OSRD. Bush felt that basic research was important to national survival for both military and commercial reasons, requiring continued government support for science and technology; technical superiority could be a deterrent to future enemy aggression. In Science, The Endless Frontier, a July 1945 report to the president, Bush maintained that basic research was "the pacemaker of technological progress". "New products and new processes do not appear full-grown," Bush wrote in the report. "They are founded on new principles and new conceptions, which in turn are painstakingly developed by research in the purest realms of science!" ... Bush "insisted upon the principle of Federal patronage for the advancement of knowledge in the United States, a departure that came to govern Federal science policy after World War II."

In July 1945, the Kilgore bill was introduced in Congress, proposing the appointment of a single science administrator by the president, with emphasis on applied research, and a patent clause favoring a government monopoly. In contrast, the competing Magnuson bill was similar to Bush's proposal to vest control in a panel of top scientists and civilian administrators with the executive director appointed by them. The Magnuson bill emphasized basic research and protected private patent rights. ... A Senate bill was introduced in February 1947 to create the National Science Foundation (NSF) to replace the OSRD. This bill favored most of the features advocated by Bush, including the controversial administration by an autonomous scientific board.
Vannevar Bush must be rolling in his grave.
posted by Westringia F. at 8:49 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why is it we seem to be doing everything we can to orchestrate our own demise?
posted by BlueHorse at 8:52 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


From Neil deGrasse Tyson's twitter feed:

"There's no crime in being ignorant. Problems arise when people who don't know they're ignorant rise to power."
posted by mosk at 8:52 AM on May 1, 2013 [90 favorites]


I am feeling sad about this. I can make a strong case to anthropologists, ecologists, and conservation biologists - my peers, who should do the reviewing - as to why my research on primate behavior, ecology, and endocrinology is important and relevant. I can even make a case for its groundbreaking nature. But I can't make that case to a group of people who believe the earth has been here for 6,000 years and evolution doesn't happen.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:52 AM on May 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


You know what? If we're going to do this, let's really do it. Put creationists in charge of the science committee, put pacifists in charge of the DOD, hand the energy and natural resources committee over to greenpeace, give the NEA to the Koch brothers and the NSA to Bruce Schneier. Everybody gets to be in charge of the thing they know least about or are philosophically diametrically opposed to. I'm tired of watching the slow and clumsy decline, let's just get it fucking over with.
posted by ook at 8:52 AM on May 1, 2013 [40 favorites]


So who will do the grant proposal review even with his new non-peer review standards (that contain a lot of things that are often part of normal existing peer review standards BTW)? He does at least know that grant reviewers do it either for free or for a pittance honorarium right? Is he offering to staff the NSF with their own in house qualified research scientists in every possible field as grant reviewers?
posted by srboisvert at 8:53 AM on May 1, 2013


It's not just the Republicans making wildly inappropriate appointments.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:53 AM on May 1, 2013 [16 favorites]


Head of new grant review process.
posted by Mister_A at 8:54 AM on May 1, 2013


Is he offering to staff the NSF with their own in house qualified research scientists in every possible field as grant reviewers?

Probably if you leave out the "qualified", "research", and "scientists" part you've got it right.
posted by ook at 8:54 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Putting a Christian Scientist in charge of funding scientific research is like putting a Ptolemaic geocentrist in charge of the space program.

Yeah, the both think they're the center of the universe!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:54 AM on May 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Putting a Christian Scientist in charge of funding scientific research is like putting a Ptolemaic geocentrist in charge of the space program.

I'd like to step on this trope a little bit by pointing out that C. Everett Koop was pretty great as a surgeon general. Lamar Smith seems to be terrible, but there are exceptions in every class of people. Judge people by their particular works, etc.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:54 AM on May 1, 2013


Put creationists in charge of the science committee, put pacifists in charge of the DOD, hand the energy and natural resources committee over to greenpeace, give the NEA to the Koch brothers and the NSA to Bruce Schneier.

I'm with you on 60% of these
posted by theodolite at 8:55 AM on May 1, 2013 [20 favorites]


>>Is he offering to staff the NSF with their own in house qualified research scientists in every possible field as grant reviewers?

>Probably if you leave out the "qualified", "research", and "scientists" part you've got it right.


I suspect he'd be perfectly happy to leave off the "staff" bit as well.
posted by maryr at 8:55 AM on May 1, 2013


It's not just the Republicans making wildly inappropriate appointments.

how is that not an onion article

i just
posted by elizardbits at 8:56 AM on May 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


I feel like I should type up a quick study on Jesus is Great for that $$$$.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:57 AM on May 1, 2013


That's awful!

I mean, first off they want projects to be "groundbreaking" but they don't want actual scientists to peer review them, so "groundbreaking" is presumably subject to all kinds of political hackery.

Second, what the fuck with the "groundbreaking"? I work with researchers. Most of them are not doing "groundbreaking" research - just research that is important, ongoing, useful, additive. Some of them are doing slow, painstaking projects that have been funded for years and years, because they are still learning things. I mean, this Lamar person clearly doesn't actually know how science works.

Is this some kind of weird Cold War style stand-off, where the Repugs don't get SOPA but Obama appoints this jerk to destroy our research infrastructure?

God, I hate Republicans, and I hate Democrats only fractionally less. We're already losing a generation of researchers - maybe more! maybe worse! - because of this idiotic sequester.

What do they think? Private industry is just going to do more antibiotic and Important Yet Less Profitable drug development? (I mean, technically that is NIH, but I'm sure they'd do the same thing to NIH as soon as they could.) Private industry is going to figure out the real, actual science we need to do things that may not immediately entrance the foul capitalist pigs on the board of directors? Oh, no, they just think that they are so wealthy and powerful that no matter what happens to the rest of us, they'll get the best of whatever is around, so let the rest of us suffer.
posted by Frowner at 8:57 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not just in the U.S. I think I saw a tweet last week that some in the U.K. were pushing back against the Haldane principle (Not Haldane's rule...not even the same Haldane).
posted by cnanderson at 8:59 AM on May 1, 2013


Thanks, science, it was a good run. I really appreciate the antibiotics and metallurgy! Well done. RIP.
posted by Mister_A at 9:00 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is this some kind of weird Cold War style stand-off, where the Repugs don't get SOPA but Obama appoints this jerk to destroy our research infrastructure?

He wasn't appointed by Obama. He was appointed by the Republicans in the House.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:00 AM on May 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


C. Everett Koop was pretty great as a surgeon general

Yes. He was also not a Christian Scientist.
posted by elizardbits at 9:01 AM on May 1, 2013 [14 favorites]


Why is it we seem to be doing everything we can to orchestrate our own demise?

If you believe everything's gonna be better after the world ends, you might figure you're helping things along.
posted by Mooski at 9:01 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Second, what the fuck with the "groundbreaking"?

Please see my newly funded study, 'Shovels: America's Dirt Spoons' for an example.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:01 AM on May 1, 2013 [20 favorites]


.
posted by Big_B at 9:02 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


robocop is bleeding: "Please see my newly funded study, 'Shovels: America's Dirt Spoons' for an example."

Your paper is rubbish and my revolutionary Mud Truncheons will go down in history. Furthermore I
posted by boo_radley at 9:04 AM on May 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


...would strip the peer-review requirement from the NSF grant process and restrict grants to “groundbreaking” research.

Sounds like money is about to flow to creationist "research".
posted by Thorzdad at 9:06 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Committee. His initial proposal (pdf) would strip the peer-review requirement from the NSF grant process and restrict grants to “groundbreaking” research.

What the actual ever-loving motherfucking fuck.
posted by medusa at 9:07 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is 'Christian Scientist' one of those things where when you put both words together they have little to no relation to the individual words themselves?
posted by TwoWordReview at 9:09 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Second, what the fuck with the "groundbreaking"?

Many non-scientists (of the type who are proud to be non-scientists) think that scientists know when an experiment they've done or discovery they've made is "groundbreaking", and that they deliberately fuck around in non-groundbreaking areas so that they can wallow in all that grant money.

When I was in high school, my mom worked for a guy who won a Nobel in medicine for work that he and his co-winner had done 20 years earlier.

In conclusion, fuck Lamar Smith and his cohort of ignorant assholes.
posted by rtha at 9:11 AM on May 1, 2013 [34 favorites]


I will be presenting my preliminary findings at the annual Big Science Thing in June - look for my abstract in the Big Science Journal– "Mechanistic Roles of the Holy Spirit in Babby Formation".
posted by Mister_A at 9:11 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


TwoWordReview, depends on your definition of the word "Christian", but they sure as heaven and hell aren't scientists.
posted by maryr at 9:12 AM on May 1, 2013


This dude would have called for Galileo's head.
posted by Mister_A at 9:13 AM on May 1, 2013


Dear Dr. Flemming,

More groundbreaking, less playing around with plants and moulds.
posted by cacofonie at 9:14 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Putting a Christian Scientist in charge of funding scientific research is like putting a Ptolemaic geocentrist in charge of the space program.

Worse, actually, since you can build a Ptolemaic system that predicts fairly accurately assuming a) you have enough epicycles and b) you don't mind that it is a predictive rather than actual model. I read somewhere that some of the early interplanetary projects used computer simulations running Ptolemaic models because it was easier to imagine only one of the points moving.

>C. Everett Koop was pretty great as a surgeon general

Yes. He was also not a Christian Scientist.


However, he did have a deeply suspect beard.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:14 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sounds like money is about to flow to creationist "research".
posted by Thorzdad at 12:06 PM


While the proposal in unquestionably asinine, I think the main result would be that the Director of the NSF would have to issue stupid pronouncements that all the research was groundbreaking and then would get called into Congress to defend those pronouncements. The discretion to award grants would still lie with the NSF, they would just have to defend it under these absurd requirements. At least, that's how I read the bill.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:15 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


(R-TX)

I'm actually a bit surprised it isn't R-MS, R-AL, or R-FL. So, yay Texas?
posted by aramaic at 9:15 AM on May 1, 2013


This is the ignorant asshole whose district the Republicuns in the Lege gerrymandered me into. Yay.
This is the next political losing battle for me.
C'mon Blue Texas.
posted by Seamus at 9:16 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Many non-scientists (of the type who are proud to be non-scientists) think that scientists know when an experiment they've done or discovery they've made is "groundbreaking", and that they deliberately fuck around in non-groundbreaking areas so that they can wallow in all that grant money.

"Well, Ted, we can either do this experiment-"
*whips blanket off birdcage labelled CURE FOR CANCER*
"Or this one."
*whips blanket off birdcage labelled FUCKING AROUND BIG-TIME*

"Either look great, James, but why are we using birdcages for this visual metaphor"

"To be honest, Ted, I'm not sure. mods? clean this one up? clean this one up a litle? mods? mods?
posted by Greg Nog at 9:17 AM on May 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


Also Rep. McDuck has been put in charge of the Committee to Prevent the Poor From Getting Screwed Any Worse Than They are Already.
posted by Mister_A at 9:17 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


In Bible Science you are peer reviewed by The Lord.
posted by Artw at 9:21 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am very happy about this. The only thing that has been holding back my groundbreaking Scientylistc Perpetulant E-Motion Energee Resurge of Destiny has been peer review. I am about to become an NSF grant writing machine! Of Destiny. Bringing the first circle online... now. It has begun.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:21 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wish I were knowledgeable enough to have more than a boo and a hiss for this decision, but I'm not. I hate that we may have to accept this toxic House for the decade, and possibly longer, if some opposition party can't undo the damage the Republicans did in 2010.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:24 AM on May 1, 2013


"Groundbreaking" is an apt choice of word. That's the first thing you do when you're putting up a new building. It's a sign that you're starting something new.

Now imagine if all we did was break new ground. We'd have a bunch of holes in the ground, and no buildings or roads or dams or anything useful.

Most science isn't groundbreaking, because it's slowly building something that works on top of that broken ground.
posted by echo target at 9:24 AM on May 1, 2013 [66 favorites]


Apologies for not mentioning that Obama's nominated cable and wireless lobbyist Tom Wheeler to head FCC directly below the fold! Too focused on the science aspect perhaps.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:24 AM on May 1, 2013


“groundbreaking” research

1: Break ground
2: Insert head
3: Bury
posted by biffa at 9:25 AM on May 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


Not to worry. I'm sure the Chinese will pick up the slack. Scientific progress will continue apace.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:26 AM on May 1, 2013 [16 favorites]


I've been advocating for some time that science deniers should stick to their principles and hand over their cell phones, computers, televisions, automobiles, penis enlargements, anything that was created as a result of the scientific method of research over the last couple hundred years.

The scientific tradition that led to things like the iPhone is the very same tradition that has determined the age of the universe (way older than 6000) and has continued to confirm and refine the theory of natural selection. So, in for a penny in for a pound–you don't just get to believe in the stuff that you like. All or nothing.
posted by Mister_A at 9:27 AM on May 1, 2013 [16 favorites]


Hey, Congress, Trofim Lysenko called. You're kifing his schtick.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:29 AM on May 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure whether I want to throw up or cry. Maybe both?

More importantly: how can we stop this from happening?
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:31 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


It could have been worse:
Despite Smith’s reluctance to admit that human behavior is a major factor in climate change, he represented the least extreme choice for committee chairman. As Mother Jones points out, the two alternatives may have been even worse for climate science: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has said that global warming is a scam that’s part of a "radical agenda to change our way of life," and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) thinks climate change is a "massive international scientific fraud." In 2009, Smith denounced major news networks for biased coverage of "Climategate" — an alleged fraud involving suppressed temperature data that was eventually debunked by the scientific community
-------------from the article

also, this takes him off the house judiciary committee.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:32 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been advocating for some time that science deniers should stick to their principles and hand over their cell phones, computers, televisions, automobiles, penis enlargements, anything that was created as a result of the scientific method of research over the last couple hundred years.

When they develop an enlargement pill that works, everyone will know of it; supply and demand will drive the price up to levels unaffordable to all but the very richest; if you think the One Percent are fucking you now ...
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:33 AM on May 1, 2013


I'm inclined to agree with Mister_A, only I'd take it a step further. No antibiotics, no antivirals, no advanced anesthetics during surgery, no chemotherapy or radiation. No ED drugs, no beta blockers, no lipid lowering meds, no statins.

I think if we're going to go in, we're going to go in whole hog.

In reality though, I feel like there should be a mechanism for us to have an emergency stop on something like this. Some way to smack someone's hand and say "NO." in a firm voice.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:34 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


No houses, either. And maybe a complimentary slap in the face before the send-off.
posted by invitapriore at 9:37 AM on May 1, 2013


The spray bottle technique is the one preferred by experts these days, I think?

WAIT LET'S SEE IF WE CAN FUND SOME RESEARCH
posted by elizardbits at 9:37 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


No antibiotics, no antivirals, no advanced anesthetics during surgery, no chemotherapy or radiation. No ED drugs, no beta blockers, no lipid lowering meds, no statins.

See previous comments re: Christian Scientist... I suspect Mr. Smith would be perfectly fine with this.
posted by Runes at 9:38 AM on May 1, 2013


Scott Aaronson's take.
posted by dfan at 9:40 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dear Congressman Smith,

I have created plans for a GROUNDBREAKING perpetual motion machine. In a deep underground bunker, a hundred Godless liberals are yoked to a crankshaft opposite a hundred demons whom the liberals simultaneously follow and flee. When liberals die from exhaustion, they are fed to the demons who feast on the liberals souls and excrete their bodies as oil. The crankshaft is attached to a massive pump, which channels the oil directly to Hellaburton.

Please send money.

IRFH
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:43 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Onion: Nation Starting To Realize New Era Of American Innovation Never Gonna Happen
posted by dfan at 9:43 AM on May 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


> what the fuck with the "groundbreaking"?

Believe what they say.

Fracking -- that's groundbreaking
Coal mining -- that's groundbreaking
Solar panels -- nope, no ground being broken by those
Plowing fields -- that's groundbreaking
No-till agriculture, nope, isn't groundbreaking, not literally)
posted by hank at 9:45 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


2014, people - don't fuck it up.
posted by Artw at 9:45 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you are interested in contacting the Committee (as I hope you all are), there is a contact form here: http://science.house.gov/contact-us
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:45 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying this is a good thing overall, but folks should remember that the House Science Committee has very little power. They are an authorizing committee only, and do not control science funding--that is the Appropriations Committee and relevant subcommittees' purview. They can hold hearings and investigations, and pass bills out of committee, but their jurisdiction is small (nothing compared to Energy and Commerce), and, again, does not have direct impact on funding of any kind.
posted by oneironaut at 9:49 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yea, it was a fun experiment while it lasted...you know...science.

Oh hey let's all be wizards!!
posted by samsara at 9:59 AM on May 1, 2013


For some people this will be less funding, but for those of us who had the foresight to title our last R01 submission: "Hydrogen bonding and why America is #1! USA! USA! USA!" this will be much, much more.
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:00 AM on May 1, 2013 [14 favorites]


For some people this will be less funding, but for those of us who had the foresight to title our last R01 submission: "Hydrogen bonding and why America is #1! USA! USA! USA!" this will be much, much more.

posted by Comrade_robot


Not sure if eponysterical?
posted by zombieflanders at 10:03 AM on May 1, 2013


Metafilter: Furthermore I...
posted by Mad_Carew at 10:05 AM on May 1, 2013



I miss the Cold War.


Jesus, me too. If the nuclear apocalypse had happened, you'd have like thirty minutes of swearing at Reagan before sweet oblivion. This is like 'let's see how we can fuck things up as irritatingly and as stupidly as possible over decades'
posted by angrycat at 10:05 AM on May 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Re: the link that says "more likely to publish faked research than scientists from elsewhere"

The conclusion appears to be from absolute numbers of papers retracted due to fraud. It would be interesting to see a percentage comparison of papers retracted vs papers published by country.


Retracted fraudulent papers are more likely to be from the US and retracted papers from the US are more likely to be fraudulent, but there's no evidence in this article or the study I've cited below that "U.S. scientists are already more likely to publish faked research than scientists from elsewhere".

Here's a more recent (2012) and more interesting study (found by looking at the most recent paper to cite the study the the ScienceDaily article is about. Note that the ScienceDaily article was based on a press release). Of the 25 million papers in PubMed, the authors found a little over 2,000 retracted papers, 70% of which were due to misconduct. Misconduct encompasses fraud (45%), plagiarism (15%), and duplicate publication (10%). Of retracted papers due to misconduct, the US was responsible for the greatest percentage, followed by Germany, Japan, and China [Figure]. Please note that those are percentage of retracted papers - not of papers published per capita. That figure is rather strikingly absent.
Most articles retracted for fraud have originated in countries with longstanding research traditions (e.g., United States, Germany, Japan) and are particularly problematic for high-impact journals. In contrast, plagiarism and duplicate publication often arise from countries that lack a longstanding research tradition, and such infractions often are associated with lower-impact journals
The line from the 2010 study that the ScienceDaily article was based on that caused the classic Science Journalism headline was "Surprisingly, there was significantly more fraud than error among retracted papers from the USA compared with the rest of the world." That's easily misread out of context, but in context, it's referring to the fact the papers are less likely to be retracted due to plagiarism or duplication in the US - so a higher percentage of them are fraud.

That's my reading at least. If anyone else wants to RTFAs on the topic and correct me, they're welcome to, especially since I couldn't easily scrounge up numbers of total papers published by country.
posted by maryr at 10:08 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is this some kind of weird Cold War style stand-off, where the Repugs don't get SOPA but Obama appoints this jerk to destroy our research infrastructure?

The Obama appointment mentioned in the thread was for the FCC. Lamar Smith was not appointed by Obama, but by the House of Representatives.
posted by Jpfed at 10:10 AM on May 1, 2013


When I was in high school, my mom worked for a guy who won a Nobel in medicine for work that he and his co-winner had done 20 years earlier.

But, does anyone in this country actually plan 20 years ahead?
posted by ennui.bz at 10:19 AM on May 1, 2013


I miss the Cold War.

Yes. In the cold war people thought that research was extremely important.
posted by jaduncan at 10:19 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's insane is that this guy represents part of Austin, TX. You'd think somebody at the University of Texas would have a brief conversation with this guy about what an incredible clusterfcuk that bill would be to academic research.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:22 AM on May 1, 2013


Smith also believes that political science is hogwash and is the guy who represents the Congressional GOP's fight against DOMA repeal, because according to him "[s]ame-sex 'marriages' . . . legitimize unnatural and immoral behavior." Oh, and lest you think his stances the environment are isolated, conservatives tend to consume more energy when confronted with initiatives to help save energy and a study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that "promoting energy-efficient products and services on the basis of their environmental benefits actually turned conservatives off from picking them."

No War on Science here, not at all.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:22 AM on May 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


Can someone explain to me where this bill strips out peer review? The review process seems left at the discretion of the Director, so long as the Director stipulates that all funded research meets the stated requirements. The claim that this bill strips out peer review seems invented out of whole cloth in the Science Insider blog post.

And, frankly, the stated requirements aren't that different from the current requirements. "National Interest" replaces "Broader Impacts", "groundbreaking" replaces "transformative". It's dumb, but the NSF could work with it without much significant change to how things are done, I think.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:25 AM on May 1, 2013


Not to worry. I'm sure the Chinese will pick up the slack. Scientific progress will continue apace.

When Republican extremists put a hold on stem cell research, the Italian and Korean scientific communities picked up the ball and ran with it, and now the US is behind by a decade or two. The actions of religious extremists installed in positions of power have already delivered serious, long-term, negative consequences for America, being less able to compete because of superstitious right-wing nonsense.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:31 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I feel like I should type up a quick study on Jesus is Great for that $$$$.

I mean, what is more groundbreaking than the open grave and the empty tomb? Give me your money!
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:31 AM on May 1, 2013


If you are interested in contacting the Committee (as I hope you all are), there is a contact form here: httbs://pseudoscience.house.gov/contact-us
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:42 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hear you, mr_roboto, but to me, the key thing here is that this signifies an incredible disdain for the sciences, and scientists. It's a manifestation of a desire to shatter what autonomy remains in scientific research, to shackle scientific investigation to near-term political ends rather than to the advancement of human knowledge. It could be worse, sure—and it will if we don't raise the alarm right now!
posted by Mister_A at 10:43 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


So yeah! Pull out your best Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes and lob as much anti-Christian rhetoric as you can! Together we can win this one buddy!
posted by foot at 10:44 AM on May 1, 2013


Laugh all you want, but rumor has it that real soon now this fine website will be closed to general commentary, and instead will only be publishing those comments that are truly ground-breaking.

I'd say more, but in anticipation of my no longer being able to post whatever mediocrity happens to flit through my mind I'm going to stop slacking, head back to the bench, and get back to work crafting some break-through content. It's been swell, folks.
posted by hoople at 10:47 AM on May 1, 2013


Pull out your best Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes and lob as much anti-Christian rhetoric as you can!

We need to be careful not to conflate "Christian" with benighted, science-denying fundamentalists. There are lots of different kids of Christians in the world.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:49 AM on May 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


I hear you, mr_roboto, but to me, the key thing here is that this signifies an incredible disdain for the sciences, and scientists.

Well, yeah. But let's also not claim that this bill is something that it is not (stripping peer-review). To do so itself shows a disdain for the fact-based world.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:51 AM on May 1, 2013


There are lots of different kids of Christians in the world.

And they're very cute!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:52 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, Paul ‘Lies Straight From The Pit Of Hell’ Broun (R-GA) is chair of the Science Subcommittee on Oversight.

For fuck's sake.
posted by homunculus at 10:56 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


However, he did have a deeply suspect beard.

I think the word you meant here is "awesome."

I'm pretty sure there's a lot of Texans, even conservative ones, who think Smith is an embarassing loon. But thanks to the gerrymandering, cronyism, and OHNOESTAXES hysteria rampant in our government, we feel helpless to do much but mutter into our beers about it.
posted by emjaybee at 11:06 AM on May 1, 2013


I think where the "stripping peer review" language comes from is the idea that this bill "would replace peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a set of funding criteria chosen by Congress."
1) "… in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science;
2) "… the finest quality, is groundbreaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and
3) "… not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies."
While elements of this would presumably require peer review (particularly, the second), the third is antithetical to the process of doing science, and the first is basically an invitation for politics to get in the way of research funding. Health, prosperity, welfare, and national defense are a very limited set of criteria upon which to judge a scientific proposal. I don't see those four categories being particularly broadly defined given the current congressional attitude towards science. I do think it's worth getting concerned about, and I agree that it is undermining the peer review process. Especially when congresspeople are looking at already peer-reviewed grants and deciding that peer review failed in these particular instances and the grants are not actually intellectually meritorious enough to have been funded.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:07 AM on May 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


leotrotsky: What's insane is that this guy represents part of Austin, TX.

So the reason Lamar Smith represents any of Austin is that Austin is gerrymandered into 3 or 4 districts because it is the possible for the Republican legislature to do so to dilute our representation in Congress. They often concentrate on Austin because under the Voting Rights Act, they can't mess with Democratic districts that also happen to be minority districts.

I am in Lloyd Doggett's district, but I catch the bus to work in Smith's district, 300 feet from my house. I feel sorry for my neighbors on the other side of Parker Lane. This is what they've got for representation.

So Lamar Smith is to Austin as Lamar Smith is to the entire US: a big F.U. from the Republican Party.

At least he's not Louie Gohmert.
posted by Mad_Carew at 11:08 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Those proposed standards are three-fold, requiring the NSF’s director to certify that all accepted research proposals are: “in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science; the finest quality, is groundbreaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.”

Actually, while I wouldn't use the word "strip", in terms of peer review, I would definitely use the word "maim". In peer review, we determine not just whether the work is important enough for publication, which most people think of; but whether it is scientifically valid and whether it is lacking some scientific perspective. People get holed up in labs and often don't get any perspective on what they're doing until peer review, whether for grants or publication. Flaws are found and that's not a bad thing for the reviewers or reviewee. If politicians are going to be interfering with peer review, especially re: duplicative work, we are going to have a lot of groundbreaking science which is often moderately duplicative, unfunded, (which, frankly is already the case) and down the lab drain.

Members of congress are not qualified to make judgments re: scientific validity unless they hold a Ph.D. and are experts in a qualified field.

On preview, what ChuraChura said.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:16 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ehhhh... I dunno, I tend to think that "lobbyist for cable company nominated to head the FCC" means "guy who I probably strongly disagree with on at least some FCC-related concerns, but who is nonetheless probably knowledgeable about the kinds of things the FCC deals with, and thus probably qualified for what he's nominated for regardless of the fact that I don't like it and that he'll probably make at least some decisions I'll disagree with".

As opposed to "someone who is actively opposed to science heading the House Science Committee", which is like Bizarro World. It's a whole different level of crap.
posted by Flunkie at 11:23 AM on May 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Maybe adding this will improve our chances next round:

Jesus is my co-PI.
posted by bergeycm at 11:23 AM on May 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Lot?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:28 AM on May 1, 2013


Jesus is my co-PI.

bergeycm FTW
posted by Sophie1 at 11:34 AM on May 1, 2013


I'd love seeing Lamar Smith defeated in 2014. In 2012, no republicans challenged him in the primary and Candace Duval lost badly in the general.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:44 AM on May 1, 2013


Probably no accident he's from Texas - home to Exxon and other fossil fuel dinosaurs. Ironically though, Texas leads the country in wind power.
posted by stbalbach at 11:49 AM on May 1, 2013


Ironically though, Texas leads the country in wind power.

Yeah, it's all the hot air! *rimshot*

I'll be here all week, tip your server...
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:56 AM on May 1, 2013


Try the zeal.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:57 AM on May 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sophie1: "In reality though, I feel like there should be a mechanism for us to have an emergency stop on something like this. Some way to smack someone's hand and say "NO." in a firm voice."

Isn't that the job of your President? I'm a little uncertain on how the process works, but it sounds like Smith's bill would have to be passed by Congress. (Something that seems likely since they have a majority.) Then the President could veto it, essentially telling them "No" like you described. Whether he would bother to veto it is a different question, I guess. If the Democrats didn't care enough about the Science Committee to fill their two empty seats, this probably isn't an issue that concerns them much.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:58 AM on May 1, 2013


By groundbreaking does he mean drilling?
posted by asra at 12:11 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


At least he's not Louie Gohmert.

When people say that, you know things have gotten bad.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:22 PM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile back on the Hill, another well meaning legislator with nothing but the best interests of the country at heart wants to eliminate all economic statistics. If the BLS does not publish an unemployment rate, unemployment is solved, right?
A group of Republicans are cooking up legislation that could give President Barack Obama an unintentional assist with disagreeable unemployment numbers -- by eliminating the key economic statistic altogether.

posted by shothotbot at 12:57 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


2014, people - don't fuck it up.

Oh, that's funny. As if voters get to choose their representatives, rather than the other way round; and as if committee seniority goes to those with expertise, rather than those whose districts are so safe that they rarely receive a serious challenge.
posted by holgate at 12:57 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


2014, people - don't fuck it up.

Are you suggesting we're going to have some sort of viable candidate to vote for that cares about things? I mean, I'll keep voting third party like usual, but I'm not holding my breath.
posted by nTeleKy at 3:06 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]



You know what? If we're going to do this, let's really do it. Put creationists in charge of the science committee, put pacifists in charge of the DOD, hand the energy and natural resources committee over to greenpeace, give the NEA to the Koch brothers and the NSA to Bruce Schneier. Everybody gets to be in charge of the thing they know least about or are philosophically diametrically opposed to. I'm tired of watching the slow and clumsy decline, let's just get it fucking over with.


3 out of 5 are really good ideas, as has been noted above. Bruce Schneier once compressed a single bit to half its size, after all.


And, frankly, the stated requirements aren't that different from the current requirements. "National Interest" replaces "Broader Impacts", "groundbreaking" replaces "transformative". It's dumb, but the NSF could work with it without much significant change to how things are done, I think.


Like everyone else who's ever applied for NSF money, I don't really know what "Broader Impact" actually means, but it seems quite different from "National Interest", or I would at least interpret those two things quite differently. In particular, "National Interest" sounds like a small subset of "Broader Impact".

One point of reliable funding for science is to allow a bunch of people to work on stuff constantly, to maximize the chances of something "groundbreaking" getting done. The unpredictability of research results, together with the fact that it's very hard to do anything "groundbreaking" if one can only work effectively in fits and starts, following a random injection of money, makes it silly to impose a before-the-fact criterion of "groundbreaking"ness on all research. Good research comes more consistently out of a thriving community that's not constantly worried about survival, and it comes along with lots of less impressive research, therefore.

An important part of having peer reviewers drawn from the same community as grant applicants is that they understand this, and they can, as the "experts", apply an actual productive criterion, like "looks very interesting and likely to be fruitful". "Groundbreaking" is often decided far after the fact; that it could be ensconced as an official criterion indicates that people who aren't scientists shouldn't have much say in how science funding is allocated.

Lamar Smith should not be allowed anywhere near anything with "science" in the name (and he should in fact not be allowed near any political power at all).
posted by kengraham at 3:32 PM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is 'Christian Scientist' one of those things where when you put both words together they have little to no relation to the individual words themselves?

Lamar Smith is a Christian Scientist, meaning a member of the Church of Christ, Scientist.
posted by dilettante at 3:49 PM on May 1, 2013


For whatever anecdata is worth, two of my best friends in high school were Christian Scientists (they are siblings). When Peter broke his arm sophomore year, his parents took him to the doctor and he got a cast on it and then afterwards physical therapy. When Kathy broke her ankle, ditto with the doctors and cast and so on. Kathy is now a tenured history prof, and Peter does something computer-related.

So, just because Lamar Smith is nuts cannot and is not all be down to whatever denomination he belongs to. There are Catholics who use birth control and advocate for gay marriage, and there are Catholics who want everyone to somehow go back to some long-ago Latin-speaking time.
posted by rtha at 4:03 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lot?

Dude, do not turn around.
posted by double bubble at 4:26 PM on May 1, 2013


Mmmm! Salty!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:28 PM on May 1, 2013


Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog weighs in: Why is Our Government Attacking Science?

This is an interesting point he raises in addition to what's been discussed here:
Even leaders who support science are making terrible decisions right now that will have long-term consequences for American science. President Obama and the White House put out a budget for NASA that eviscerates planetary exploration. Not only that, it completely zeroes out NASA education and public outreach (EPO) efforts. The NASA budget and press release at the time were vague on details, but it’s now clear that the proposal will irreversibly damage NASA’s EPO, moving it to other agencies. That’s crazy. And I do mean 100 percent sheer craziness.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:30 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dude, do not turn around.

So now Smith's bringing back Ace of Base? This aggression will not stand, man!
posted by zombieflanders at 4:32 PM on May 1, 2013


I'm telling you, point out loudly in the media that this is straight-up commie Leninist Lysenkoism and he'll backtrack so quickly it'll make your head spin. Probably even get some stupid Texan repugs to jump on his shit as well.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 4:47 PM on May 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


In other War on Science news: Zero Tolerance Watch: Teen Faces Felony Charges for Science Experiment
posted by homunculus at 4:58 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


In other War on Science news: Zero Tolerance Watch: Teen Faces Felony Charges for Science Experiment

Wow, this country really is going insane.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:06 PM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


As Shothot stated: GOP is pushing once again not only to get rid of the American Community Survey but to end ALL Census activity that isn't part of the Decennial. The latter might be a move to get rid of just the ACS, but that in and of itself is still a big deal. Fuckers.
posted by stratastar at 5:54 PM on May 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


I hate to say it, but the Republicans are trying to do to you what Harper's Conservatives already did to us. Cutting funding for basic research, making new science funding contingent upon some kind of economic benefit, even eviscerating the government's ability to measure things statistically. All that happened here.
posted by Kevin Street at 6:12 PM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm in agreement with mr_roboto. The barely-drafted "bill" looks kind of stupid and I think people are right to be against it, but I need to see something more closely resembling actual legislation. Is there some specific language in NSF-governing regulations that this is intended to replace?
posted by zennie at 7:16 PM on May 1, 2013


In regard to mr_roboto's comment above, I think the main concerns are twofold:

Firrst, it would require that the NSF Director certify that all funded projects "answer questions or solve problems that are of utmost importance to society at large" (something which may not be easy to demonstrate for pure/basic research) and that they are "in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science" (as opposed to the NSF's mission, which is first "to promote the progress of science;" followed by "to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.").

Second, the certification requirement and provision for the Transfer of Funds means that if the NSF Director -- a political appointee of the President -- does not consider a project certifiable along the listed criteria, he/she effectively has veto power over the recommendations of the NSF peer-review panel (panels comprised of independent scientists who are not employed by the NSF and are selected with particular attention to avoiding conflicts of interest). This, I think, is where the idea that the bill would "replace" peer review comes from, though it's not so much a replacement as a trump card. In either case, it's a scary prospect considering the attitudes of some of our past Presidents/candidates.

Both of these things would fly directly in the face of what the NSF is supposed to be: a government agency that supports basic academic research based on the recommendations of a politically-disinterested board of scientists. Here's a link to the full text of the report to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman that gave birth to the NSF:
Bush, Vannevar (1945). Science, the Endless Frontier. US Government Printing Office, Washington DC.
It's an engaging and compelling read, and Bush's arguments are no less valid today than they were in 1945:
A new agency should be established, therefore, by the Congress for the purpose [of supplementing the support of basic research in the universities]. Such an agency, moreover, should be an independent agency devoted to the support of scientific research and advanced scientific education alone. Industry learned many years ago that basic research cannot often be fruitfully conducted as an adjunct to or a subdivision of an operating agency or department. Operating agencies have immediate operating goals and are under constant pressure to produce in a tangible way, for that is the test of their value. None of these conditions is favorable to basic research. Research is the exploration of the unknown and is necessarily speculative. It is inhibited by conventional approaches, traditions, and standards. It cannot be satisfactorily conducted in an atmosphere where it is gauged and tested by operating or production standards. Basic scientific research should not, therefore, be placed under an operating agency whose paramount concern is anything other than research. Research will always suffer when put in competition with operations.
Other particularly relevant sections include:
  • 1.4. Freedom of Inquiry Must Be Preserved
  • 3.3. The Importance of Basic Research
  • 6.3. Five Fundamentals

    I don't actually miss the Cold War, of course, but I do miss the national "pro-science" sentiment that recognized the value of public research funding. Heaven knows we have plenty of other foes left to fight [energy, cancer, climate change, ...].

  • posted by Westringia F. at 9:52 PM on May 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


    Also, it should be noted that the NSF's "broader societal impact" criterion was only recently implemented in 1997, and was also a cause of concern and controversy. Let's not allow that to shift the Overton window.
    posted by Westringia F. at 9:53 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


    Not to worry. Come to Europe to do science. The FP7 and Horizon 2020 programmes are throwing Billions of euro at research (in a calm and rational manner).
    posted by Homemade Interossiter at 9:02 AM on May 2, 2013


    Belief in biblical end-times stifling climate change action in U.S.
    “[T]he fact that such an overwhelming percentage of Republican citizens profess a belief in the Second Coming (76 percent in 2006, according to our sample) suggests that governmental attempts to curb greenhouse emissions would encounter stiff resistance even if every Democrat in the country wanted to curb them,” Barker and Bearce wrote in their study, which will be published in the June issue of Political Science Quarterly.
    [...]
    That very sentiment has been expressed by federal legislators. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) said in 2010 that he opposed action on climate change because “the Earth will end only when God declares it to be over.” He is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.
    posted by zombieflanders at 1:56 PM on May 2, 2013


    A congressional proposal to alter how the National Science Foundation (NSF) chooses research projects "would throw the basic research baby out with the bath water," says presidential science adviser John Holdren.
    posted by dhruva at 2:38 PM on May 2, 2013


    Belief in biblical end-times stifling climate change action in U.S.

    It is very unfortunate that Reality-Based Eschatology has to compete with shit like this for mindshare, at everyone's peril. RBE non-believers should go rapture themselves.
    posted by kengraham at 5:29 AM on May 3, 2013


    It's not just the Republicans making wildly inappropriate appointments.

    Indeed.
    posted by homunculus at 3:35 PM on May 3, 2013


    Ridiculous Fox News Claim of the Day: Reason Caused the Holocaust
    posted by homunculus at 6:39 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]



    Ridiculous Fox News Claim of the Day: Reason Caused the Holocaust


    The IQ-greater-than-shoe-size crowd should wonder which will happen first: starvation/drowning/disease due to climate change, or the necessity of skin grafts on both face and palm?
    posted by kengraham at 2:06 PM on May 4, 2013


    Louisiana State Senate: We <3 Creationism
    posted by homunculus at 1:37 PM on May 6, 2013


    Asked and answered
    BuzzFeed ran an interesting report last night on the number of questions Senate Republicans have asked McCarthy as part of her confirmation process, and to appreciate how ridiculous it's been, consider this: combine all of the questions submitted for the record by Senate Republicans for the three previous EPA directors. Then double that number. Then double that number again. It still doesn't come close to the 1,079 questions the Senate GOP has submitted to Gina McCarthy.

    What's more, Evan McMorris-Santoro added that Vitter has asked 411 written questions, with 242 subparts. "She's provided answers to them all, but on Monday, Vitter's office said McCarthy had been 'unresponsive.'"

    So, when Vitter and committee Republicans boycotted this morning's confirmation hearing because of unanswered questions, denying the committee the quorum it needs to function, it was relying on a trumped rationale. It's almost as if GOP senators just want to interfere with the confirmation of a new EPA director, regardless of whether their reasons make sense or not.
    posted by zombieflanders at 9:03 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


    GOP throws tantrum over Obama’s EPA nominee

    I hope Sen. Vitter was wearing his diaper.
    posted by homunculus at 1:36 AM on May 10, 2013


    Pressure Builds on Congress to Kill NSF Bill
    posted by dhruva at 8:11 AM on May 10, 2013


    Senator Suggests Efforts To Implement Obamacare Are ‘Illegal,’ Like Iran-Contra
    posted by homunculus at 6:34 PM on May 12, 2013


    Oh hell, that's about Lamar Alexander, not Lamar Smith. Oops.
    posted by homunculus at 6:49 PM on May 12, 2013


    In other War on Science news: Zero Tolerance Watch: Teen Faces Felony Charges for Science Experiment

    Wow, this country really is going insane.


    Update: Kiera Wilmot Won’t Be Charged With Felony For School Yard Explosion
    posted by homunculus at 7:38 PM on May 16, 2013


    7 Very Wrong Things About Climate Science And Energy In House Science Chair Lamar Smith’s WashPost Op-Ed
    posted by homunculus at 2:01 PM on May 22, 2013


    Climate research nearly unanimous on human causes, survey finds: Of more than 4,000 academic papers published over 20 years, 97.1% agreed that climate change is anthropogenic
    posted by homunculus at 1:06 AM on May 23, 2013


    The need for critical science journalism: Too much contemporary science writing falls under the category of 'infotainment'
    posted by homunculus at 1:06 AM on May 23, 2013


    In Her Own Words: Kiera Wilmot Talks About The Science Experiment That Almost Ruined Her Future
    posted by homunculus at 6:22 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


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