What: All Issues : Human Rights & Civil Liberties : Freedom of Scientific Inquiry : Reauthorization of the National Science Foundation (H.R. 1867)/Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) amendment to prohibit the use of NSF funds for research related to a number of specific topics such as archives of Andean knotted-string records and bison hunting on the late prehistoric Great Plains (2007 house Roll Call 289)
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Reauthorization of the National Science Foundation (H.R. 1867)/Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) amendment to prohibit the use of NSF funds for research related to a number of specific topics such as archives of Andean knotted-string records and bison hunting on the late prehistoric Great Plains
house Roll Call 289     May 02, 2007
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

This vote was on an amendment to legislation reauthorizing the National Science Foundation (NSF), a large federal grant-making agency, at $21 billion through fiscal 2010. Proposed by Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.), the amendment would prohibit the use of NSF funds for research related to a number of specific topics such as archives of Andean knotted-string records and bison hunting on the late prehistoric Great Plains.

Campbell wanted to cut research projects on account of the growing budget deficit. In addition to the Andean knotted-string and bison projects, Campbell would have put the following research projects on the chopping block: the accuracy in cross-cultural understanding of others' emotions; team versus individual play; sexual politics of waste in Dakar, Senegal; social relationships and reproductive strategies of Phayre's Leaf Monkeys; and a cognitive model of superstitious belief.

"What this amendment does is it says that there are certain things upon which we should not be spending money through this bill during this time of budget deficits, stealing Social Security funds, and increasing taxes," Campbell said. "The question before us is, do these things rise to the standard of requiring expenditures of taxpayer funds in a time of deficits, proposed tax increases and raiding Social Security funds? I think the answer is a resounding no."

Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) countered that the budget deficit rose to historic levels under the leadership of the Republican Party. He went on to explain that Campbell's amendment would set a dangerous precedent of congressional micromanagement in the activities of peer-reviewed scientific grants. "While congressional oversight of federal programs is, of course, important, second-guessing peer review in this way could compromise the fabric of our public research enterprise one thread at a time."

"And I would be tempted to ask the gentleman from California, except he's already stated his piece, why he would be opposing research that has been supported by the United States Army Research Institute; that is seen as critical to the security of our troops serving in Iraq," Baird added, referring to the study on the accuracy of cross-cultural understanding of emotions.

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) seconded Baird's assertion that one cannot judge a scientific project by its title. He added that the "best estimate" of the return on investment for research funded by the National Science Foundation is a minimum of 20 percent and a maximum of 400 percent.

"Now, I challenge anyone in this chamber to find investments that will year after year give you that rate of return on the investment," Ehlers said.

Campbell's amendment was rejected. Nineteen Republicans crossed party lines to vote against it, and 22 Democrats broke with their party in voting for it. Thus, by a vote of 195 to 222, the House rejected an amendment to legislation reauthorizing the National Science Foundation that would have prevented the agency from funding seven specific research projects, and the bill went forward without the provision.

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