The Society for the
Study of Social Issues

Senator Proposes Eliminating the NSF SBE Directorate

27 May 2011

Yesterday, the office of Senator Tom Coburn released a report, The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope. According to the Senator’s press release, the report “identifies more than $1.2 billion the National Science Foundation (NSF) has lost due to waste, fraud, duplication and mismanagement.”

The report highlights NSF funded projects that it claims aim to research pointless and wasteful subjects and to satisfy “the random curiosities of some researchers”. For example, whether “boys like to play with trucks and girls like to play with dolls”, and “how quickly parents respond to trendy baby names”. It also reports on misallocations of funds by NSF staff for travel and team building programs, and duplication of funding across federal agencies.

Among the report's final recommendations which seek to make the NSF “more efficient, trim waste, and better target and manage resources”, is one to “Eliminate NSF’s Social, Behavioral, and Economics (SBE) Directorate”.

On June 2nd the Research and Science Education Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing Social, Behavioral and Economic Science Research: Oversight of the Need for Federal Investments and Priorities for Funding. While this is unlikely to be a series matter for discussion around the 2012 budget debate, it is important that those debates, where scientific research is concerned, are framed within an accurate understanding of peer reviewed research.

I will be sharing SPSSI’s Statement in Support of NIH and NSF Peer Review Process with offices of the members of the subcommittee next week. It will also be an opportunity to share accounts of the tremendous value of NSF funded research and I encourage SPSSI members to contribute by contacting me at

Alex Ingrams
SPSSI Policy Coordinator

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Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin