The story begins as follows:
WASHINGTON — Republicans on the House science committee are making an unprecedented move to require oversight of the scientific research process, pushing a bill that would in effect politicize decisions made by the National Science Foundation, according to a draft of the legislation acquired by The Huffington Post. As part of the same effort, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, sent a letter to the NSF Thursday demanding that it provide supporting materials to justify research that its panels of independent scientists have approved.
The bill, titled the High Quality Research Act and authored by Smith, would require the director of the NSF to certify in writing that every grant handed out by the federal agency is for work that is “the finest quality, is ground breaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and … is not duplicative of other research project being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.” The bill has not been officially introduced, but HuffPost acquired a draft copy that Smith circulated among colleagues.
If you are having a problem getting your head around this it’s because it’s borderline crazy. Led by the Republicans — you know, the same folks who insist on teaching creationism as a science, who deny that DNA has anything to do with heredity, and who also think that climate change is a fiction — are going to insist that qualified scientists run their work past the expert eye of one or more of their members to make certain it warrants funding for research. That is to say, men and women who have spent 20+ years in school learning everything they can about their fields of expertise will now (if this bill becomes law) have to get approval from a group of ignorant no-minds whose only qualification is that they fooled a sufficient number of gullible voters into electing them to public office. As Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas who sits on the committee, noted in his response to Smith,
Interventions in grant awards by political figures with agenda, biases, and no expertise is the antithesis of the peer review processes. . . . By making this request, you are sending a chilling message to the scientific community that peer review will always be trumped by political review. . . . Your letter marks the beginning of an investigative effort, the implications of which are profound. . . This is the first step on a path that would destroy the merit-based review process at NSF and intrudes political pressure into what is widely regarded as the most effective and creative process for awarding research funds in the world.
This bill is merely in the early stages and one can only hope that it will be resoundingly defeated. But with this group of clowns presently in Congress one can never know for sure. Just when you think the country has sunk as low as it can possibly get it finds a deeper level of ignominy. I swear it is becoming an embarrassment to admit one is a citizen of this country. And don’t get me started on how far from the ideals set forth by the founders this group has managed to move us, from a Republic that nurtures public virtue to a country run by self-important, narrow-minded, professional politicians funded by wealthy special interests. One can only wonder what could possibly be next on the Republican agenda — aside from the Jim Crow laws they are pushing in various states, dismantling health care legislation, and their determination to rid the country of those pesky regulatory agencies that promote such things as good health.