Why Fund Studies of Maya Architecture Instead of Saving Lives?

Rosemary Joyce posts a thoughtful piece about federal funding of research to the Berkeley Blog.

All grants funded by the NSF have gone through a rigorous– dare I say grueling?– peer review process, in which senior scientists across the country freely and without charge read and evaluate proposals as a service to the NSF. Our reviews of proposals include comparing what the proposal says it will do to well defined criteria developed by NSF. These include attention to the basic contribution to knowledge, the “intellectual merit” of the research (what will we know that we did not previously when the research is done?) and how the research will improve public understanding of science, expand participation in science, and where appropriate, how research might lead to improvements in everyday life. These “broader impacts” are taken seriously by researchers, who have shown their dedication to doing things like presenting classroom lectures for K-12 schools, making findings available on websites, and trying to use their knowledge to help guide public policy, for example, on how to cope with climate change.

NSF CCLI award to Trinity

Michelle Bushey, Benjamin Surpless and Candace Coyle have received a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support the purchase of a handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (XRF) and an inductively coupled plasma – optical emission spectrometer (ICP-OES).  This equipment will be used in a minimum of five chemistry, five geosciences, and one biology course, including The Chemistry of Art (CHEM 1305), Exploring Earth (GEOS 1407) and Plant Biology (BIOL 3427).

Trinity chemists to purchase NMR with NSF support

Trinity chemistry professor Nancy Mills, with colleagues Laura Hunsicker-Wang, Jessica Hollenbeck and Adam Urbach, have been awarded $498,500 by the National Science Foundation for the purchase of a 500 MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer. This device will enhance the research programs of Trinity faculty as well as the experience of students in the summer research program. The device will also be used by Trinity biology professor Frank Healy, as well as Rafael Adrian and David Coleman, biochemistry professors at the University of the Incarnate Word.

Chemistry department chair Steven Bachrach points out that “this is a real coup for the university as we will now have an instrument comparable or better than any other PUI and on par with many R1 schools..”

This grant was made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

See also KENS 5 blog April 22, 2010

NSF and Political Science

The New York Times reported yesterday on Senator Tom Coburn’s opposition to continued National Science Foundation Funding for research in political Science.  The article points out that NSF was a significant funder of the 2009 Nobel prize winner Elinor Ostrom and that political scientists are called upon by policy makers in the U.S. and abroad for their expertise.

Update:  On October 14, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Coburn invoked the practice of waterboarding in describing the federal debt that would be accumulated because of NSF funding policies.  “I have five grandchildren… You know what—we are going to waterboard them. That is what we are going to do… We are going to flood them with debt.”