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House panel examines social sciences

The House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a hearing June 2 titled Social, Behavioral and Economic Science (SBE) Research: Oversight of the Need for Federal Investments and Priorities for Funding. 

"The main support for basic research in the (non-medical) social and behavioral sciences comes from the NSF, accounting for approximately 58 percent of federal support for basic research at U.S. colleges and universities," according to the subcommittee's website.

NSF is the predominant or exclusive source of federal basic research support in fields like archaeology, political science,  linguistics, and non-medical aspects of anthropology, psychology, and sociology.

Three of the four witnesses agreed that the government should support SBE research at the National Science Foundation (NSF), while the fourth, Diana Furchtgott-Roth a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a nonpartisan policy research think tank, testified that this type of research was not appropriate for NSF, except in rare circumstances.

The three witnesses who backed SBE research at the NSF were: Dr. Myron Gutmann, assistant director, Directorate for SBE, NSF, Dr. Hillary Anger Elfenbein, associate professor,  Washington University in St. Louisand Dr. Peter W. Wood, president, National Association of Scholars.

The NSF's Directorate for SBE has requested $301.1 million for FY12, an 18 percent increase from FY10 enacted funding levels, the subcommittee's site reports.

What do you think? Should the government support SBE research at the NSF?

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