Is the Republican FIRST Act Really “Anti-Science”?

Research in science and technology costs money. Lots of money. And in recent American history, much of that money has come from the civil government. The National Science Foundation gives out millions of dollars a year to different research projects. Those projects are all determined by a peer-review process. But that could change soon thanks to the FIRST Act:

[Republicans] have recently proposed a bill — titled the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014” — that would cut foundation spending for research in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences by more than 40 percent. The bill would shift some $160 million that the federal government has allocated for the social sciences and geosciences toward Republican priorities in the physical and biological sciences, as well as engineering.

Republicans defend the FIRST Act by explaining that it is not “anti-science” as such, but that it would direct the majority of limited government funds to those sciences that are most beneficial to our national interests: “harder” science that might lead to technological breakthroughs.

Democrats criticize the bill particularly because they think it targets research on “climate change,” sociological issues like poverty or healthcare, and other politically inflammatory arenas not favorable to the typical Republican agenda.

In the end, there is one main solution: just cut government funding from all of science. The fact is that no matter what the National Science Foundation purports, science has been heavily politicized because of the civil government’s involvement. They hide behind the apparently neutral peer-review process, but when government funds are involved, it isn’t possible that government strings aren’t attached. The solution is not to transform the now liberal leaning process into a more conservative-leaning process.

Science should not be politicized. It should be allowed to run its course with as little intervening ideological and political influence as possible. It’s not possible for science to be entirely objective or neutral. Not ever. But we could move it much further in that direction by cutting its currently massive ties to the civil government.