He has just introduced an amendment to prevent the NSF from funding political science research (PDF). Apparently, Fox News and CNN pundits can do our job better than we can.
The largest award over the last 10 years under the political science program has been $5.4 million for the University of Michigan for the “American National Election Studies” grant. The grant is to “inform explanations of election outcomes.” The University of Michigan may have some interesting theories about recent elections, but Americans who have an interest in electoral politics can turn to CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, the print media, and a seemingly endless number of political commentators on the internet who pour over this data and provide a myriad of viewpoints to answer the same questions.
Whether the answers provided by this ‘myriad of viewpoints’ are good ones, I will leave as an open question. I obviously have a dog in this fight as a political scientist who will probably apply for NSF funding in the future. But I also think that there are measurable Good Things (in terms of understanding how our system of politics works etc) that come from good empirical work in political science. And the politics of Coburn’s amendment are not precisely difficult to discern (among his stated objections are that this money has gone to fund research concluding that the US is increasingly willing to torture suspected terrorists, and carefully unspecified work – doubtless some form of shameless subsidized leftwing punditry – by Paul Krugman). If you feel that political science doesn’t deserve any funding, feel free to say so in comments. If you disagree with Coburn (and are a political scientist) and live in the US, get on to your senator’s office to say so (and ideally, contact your university’s research vice president’s office or whatever while you are at it – they are likely to have good contacts). This may come up for a vote today.
Update: Senator contact information here.