News Picks : House Science Committee continues unusual review of NSF grants
Science: Soon after Lamar Smith (R-TX) became head of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology last year, he requested that NSF allow the committee to review a collection of grants that NSF had awarded. However, as NSF was in the process of choosing a new director, Smith waited to press the issue. When France Córdova was named to the post earlier this year, Smith again submitted his request. However, Córdova let him know that because of concerns over privacy regarding the grant process, she was setting certain stipulations: Congressional staffers would have to come to NSF headquarters to access the files, the names of the grant reviewers would be redacted, and no copies of the documents could be made. Under this agreement, committee staff members have been evaluating 50 grants in a process that Smith estimates is only 5% complete. He says that the goal is to ensure that the tax-payer-funded grants are being awarded to research that is in the national interest. Many of the grants under review are in the area of the social sciences or involve research outside the US. The review has drawn criticism from Democrats and researchers, who say that politics is being injected into what is normally a scientific process for determining grant winners.