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[liberationtech] The Future of NSF

Yosem Companys companys at
Fri Jul 8 10:12:45 PDT 2011

Please read the email below.  Could anyone set this up on an online petition
site, so we may forward it more widely?


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Shobita Parthasarathy <shobita at>
Date: Wed, Jul 6, 2011 at 8:04 AM
Subject: The Future of NSF

>From Laurel Smith-Doerr:

Dear Colleagues,

The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice & Science (CJS) is considering
changing the 2012 appropriation to eliminate the Social,
Behavioral & Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate at the NSF, which includes
the STS Program.  The Consortium of Social Science
Associations (COSSA), a coalition to which the ASA belongs supporting
Federal funding for the social sciences, is encouraging its members to write
to their House Representatives and Senators, urging the House to continue to
support the human sciences at NSF.  Having had the privilege of serving
recently as one of the Program Officers at the NSF in the SBE directorate, I
want to endorse COSSA's request, believing that eliminating SBE would be
disastrous for the social sciences in the US and for sociology in

So I encourage you to write to your House Representatives and US Senators,
ideally before the CJS Subcommittee meeting on 7 July, or
before the full House Appropriations Committee meeting on  13 July, and at
least before the floor discussion scheduled for the week of 25 July.

You may want to copy Subcommittee Chair Frank Wolf R-VA and Ranking Member
Chakah Fattah D-PA and perhaps other members of the Subcommittee (
and Appropriations Committee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) and Ranking Member
Norm Dicks (D-WA) (  You can find
contact information for your representative using the ?Write Your
Representative? feature at,
and you will find a list of Senators, sortable by state, at

We all lead busy lives and if you prefer to send something more or less
ready made I suggest something along the lines of the letter made available
by the previous Assistant Director of SBE (a linguist) at  You may copy and paste the text
from this letter (make sure the formatting has copied appropriately) and if
you have the opportunity, elaborate and tell your representatives something
about our field. Furthermore, you might strengthen your argument by pointing
to NSF-supported work being conducted at a university in the
representative's area.

Support will be particularly valuable from the Republican party. I wrote to
Scott Brown, using the AD's letter as a starting point. My letter is pasted
below (unformatted).

Please feel free to forward this request to colleagues, I have taken parts
of it from the linguists but obviously it is important for representatives
to hear from all of the social sciences.

Laurel Smith-Doerr

July 1, 2011
Scott Brown
US Senator
2400 JFK Federal Building
15 New Sudbury St.
Boston, MA 02203

Dear Senator Brown,
I am alarmed to hear that the House Commerce, Justice & Science Committee is
considering eliminating or severely cutting back the directorate for Social,
Behavioral & Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

In the US, basic research in the social sciences is funded alongside the
natural sciences and engineering, through the same agency. This is unusual
from an international perspective and means that the social sciences are
done better here, by being more closely integrated with work
in the other sciences. Having the full range of basic science funded within
one agency has led to more collaborative, interdisciplinary work, with
better results on all sides.

One major example of this integration is our study of scientific innovation
itself, one of the most important drivers of a strong economy (as
acknowledged in the 2007 America COMPETES Act, which was led by the Bush
Administration but supported across parties). Somehow basic
science conducted at lab benches and engineering projects started in garages
produce new knowledge products that spark new industries like biotechnology
and information technology which give the United States a real competitive
edge in the global marketplace. This innovation
process is not yet well understood but is a central concern across social
sciences including sociology, economics, psychology, and science policy
studies. The importance of better understanding the innovation process (in
order to facilitate it) has generated the new interdisciplinary area called
the science of science and innovation policy (SciSIP). This program at NSF
is funding research to scientifically understand the innovation process and
which policies are more effective at producing beneficial outcomes in
science and technology.

NSF is unique in combining experts from the social sciences with experts in
natural sciences and engineering. For example, social scientists and
chemists in Massachusetts (and other states) have received grants in a
collaborative initiative at NSF between SciSIP (in Social/Behavioral/
Economic Sciences directorate) and Chemistry (in Math/Physical Sciences
directorate). An article in this week?s Chemical
and Engineering News ('Measuring Chemistry's Impact') announces the
initiative and its importance to understanding the chemical sciences. This
initiative 'Pathways to Innovation in the Chemical Sciences' would not have
been possible if social sciences were not part of NSF. More
information about this initiative and others in the study of innovation and
science policy can be found at the following website: (

The integration of all the basic sciences at the NSF represents one of the
national treasures of the US, which has yielded much competitive advantage.
Massachusetts has been at the forefront of this kind of interdisciplinary
research, as it has led innovation and science in general.
I urge you to oppose any efforts to weaken that integration, which will be
detrimental to our state
and our nation.

Laurel Smith-Doerr
Associate Professor of Sociology
Boston University
Ldoerr at
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