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Congress vs. the scientists, 2017 edition

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The Golden Fleece Award (1975–1988) was a tongue-in-cheek award given to public officials in the United States for their squandering of public money,  United States Senator William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, began to issue the Golden Fleece Award in 1975 in monthly press releases. The awards went to many federal agencies but federally funded scientific research was often the target, based almost entirely on the project titles.


In recent years, these mindless attacks on science have been revived by Taxpayers for Common Sense


Since the Republicans took the House and Lamar Smith (R-TX) was named to chair the House Science Committee, the attacks took a more ominous turn, with Smith ridiculing numerous NSF grants, demanding personal political scrutiny over grants, demanding documentation related to numerous grants (including reviewer comments) and ultimately, proposed legislation that would have altered NSF's peer-review system and prioritize scientific research that Congress deems to be most "in the national interest." The House passed the bill in the 114th Congress but it was not considered by the Senate. Smith, who is retiring at the end of this term, has not reintroduced this legislation. 


However, Rand Paul (R-KY) is stepping in to fill the void. 


On October 17, he introduced the BASIC Research Act (S.1973), a bill that would fundamentally change how the federal government reviews research grant proposals. The bill seeks to make several changes to peer review processes and broaden public access requirements for grant applications and research results. The Act would add two new representatives to every federal panel that reviews grant applications; one representative would be an expert in a field unrelated to the research being proposed, while the other would be a taxpayer advocate for research. Applicants would not be allowed to provide recommendations as to who should or should not participate on their grant review panel. The proposed legislation would also call for all federal grant applications to be made public.


At a hearing the following day, Adjunct Scholar Terence Kealey of the Cato Institute argued that there is no evidence indicating that the expansion of federal funding of science since World War II has substantially contributed to the U.S. economy.


The bill has no co-sponsors.

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