MPSA | Midwest Political Science Association > Advocacy > A Recent Legislative History of NSF

A Recent History of Legislation Challenging Social Science Funding 

Learn about Current Legislative Issues


June 2020U.S. lawmakers unveil bold $100 billion plan to remake NSF

The National Science Foundation (NSF) would get a sweeping remake—including a new name, a huge infusion of cash, and responsibility for maintaining U.S. global leadership in innovation—under bipartisan bills that have just been introduced in both houses of Congress.


October 2014 - Lamar Smith requests detail on 20 NSF-funded research projects from the past decade. "The Republican aides were looking for anything that Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), their boss as chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, could use to support his ongoing campaign to demonstrate how the $7 billion research agency is “wasting” taxpayer dollars on frivolous or low-priority projects, particularly in the social sciences." Read more from Jeffrey Mervis, "Battle between NSF and House science committee escalates: How did it get this bad?”, Science Insider, October 2, 2014.

August 2014 – Latest Iteration of America COMPETES on Senate Floor (8/1/14 – Social Science Space) The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on Thursday released the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2014, its bill to reauthorize programs at the National Science Foundation and other federal science agencies.  

Statement of Support: COSSA Statement of Support for the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2014 – August 8, 2014
MPSA co-signs letter urging funding anomaly for US Census Bureau for FY2015 CJS appropriations bill. - July 11, 2014

June 2014 - FY2015 CJS Bill Pulled from Senate Floor - Harry Reid, the Senate’s Majority Leader, pulled the FY15 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill and two other bills from the Senate floor on June 19. The future of the bill is unclear, though an amendment attacking political science funding was likely to emerge.

May 2014 - House FY15 CJS Appropriations Bill passed on May 29 with several amendments including one from Lamar Smith (R-TX), the Chair of the House Science Committee, moving $15 million out of and then back into NSF’s Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account in a symbolic move intended to take money from NSF’s SBE and direct it to “physical science and engineering”.

Joe Davidson, “Senators say work on 2020 Census far behind schedule”, Washington Post, May 18, 2014

Catherine Rampell, “'Big data’ needs a helping hand in Washington”, Washington Post, March 27, 2014

Statement of Support: COSSA's Letter to the Research Subcommittee in advance of FIRST Act markup - March 12, 2014

Statement of Support: National Science Board Statement on the Frontiers in Innovation, Science, and Technology Act of 2014 (H.R. 4186) – April 24, 2014

January 2014 - Senate approves omnibus spending bill avoiding sequester omitting controversial NSF funding restrictions. Read more from Michael Stratford, “Poli Sci Victory, For Now”, Inside Higher Ed, January 24, 2014


October 2013 – Lack of an agreement on a Federal budget for FY 2014, due largely in part to partisan feuding over the Affordable Care Act (aka ACA, aka Obamacare), forced the shutdown of the Federal government from October 1 – 17, 2013.

Richard A. Marini, “Research Suffers and then We Do”, San Antonio Express-News, December 15, 2013

Henry Farrell, “Why Elizabeth Warren cares about Funding the Social Sciences”, Monkey Cage Blog, November 6, 2013

Census Project Statement on Data Blackout, October 11,  2013

Statement of Support: American Association for the Advancement of Science  (AAAS) Letter to Lamar Smith, Chairman, House Science, Space and Technology Committee – October 16, 2013

Statement of Support: AAU Executive Committee Statement on Support for the Social Science – September 7, 2013

March 2013 – Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced amendment (SA 65) to the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 (H.R. 933) The amendment would have eliminated funding for the political science program at the National Science Foundation, and redirected NSF funds to cancer research. Later that month, Coburn modified his amendment to political science research funding to that which benefits the "national security or the economic interests of the United States" and to remove the provision to redirect funds. On March 20, the modified amendment was adopted by the Senate by a voice vote.

Eric Cantor and Lamar Smith “Rethinking Social Science Funding”, USA Today, September 30, 2013 

Francesca Annicchiarico, Harvard Political Scientists Lament NSF Funding Cuts, Harvard Crimson, September 25, 2013

Helga Nowotny, "Shifting horizons for Europe's social sciences and humanities" The Guardian, September 23, 2013

Grace Conyers, "Political science budget cut from NSF, scientists speak up" AAAS, August 26, 2013

Beth Mole, "NSF cancels political-science grant cycle" Nature, August 2, 2013

Robert Putnam, "Political science research offers better democracy" Politico, July 10, 2013

Kenneth Prewitt, "Is Any Science Safe Anymore?" Science Magazine, May 3, 2013

Bryan Jones, "The Attack on a Fact-Centered Political Science," HuffPost Pollster, March 25, 2013

Abby Rapoport, "Take That, Political Science!", The American Prospect, March 22, 2013

Ranking Member Johnson (House Committee on Science, Space & Technology), "The social sciences are important. They help us understand what we do, why we do what we do, and how we can do things better." February 6, 2013

Jonathan Bernstein, "Social science funding is good for your health", Washington Post's PostPartisan, February 5, 2013

Statement of Support: AAAS letter from Alan Leshner to concerning the Coburn amendment  - March 14, 2013


September 2012 - The House on September 13 and the Senate on September 22 passed the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution (CR) that will fund the agencies and programs of the Federal government until March 27, 2013.  The CR includes an across-the-board increase of 0.6 percent above the FY 2012 funding levels. This action negates the riders attached to the individual FY 2013 appropriations bills by the House and Senate and their respective funding committees.  Thus, the political science program at the National Science Foundation and the American Community Survey, eliminated by the House, and economics research at the National Institutes of Health, recommended for no further funding by the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending subcommittee, are safe for now. Read the full report

May 2012 – Jeff Flake (R-AZ) signaled his intent to try to eliminate the political science program at NSF. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (HR 5326) to prohibit NSF political science funding. The vote was 218-208 (5 Democrats voted "yes," and 26 Republicans voted "no").

Eric M. Uslaner, “The value of social science",  Letter to the Editor, Washington Post, June 9, 2012

Seth Masket, "Research: It's so important that someone else should pay for it", Michiefs of Faction, June 5, 2012

Jonathan Berstein, "Yes, political science is a good buy for the public", The Washington Post, June 5, 2012

Ezra Klein, “Jeff Flake’s plan to politicize the National Science Foundation”, Washington Post, May 12, 2012

Statement of Support: Importance of Merit Review of NSF Proposals from the AAAS  - July 11, 2011


October 2009 – Tom Coburn (R-OK) sponsored an amendment (Coburn amendment 2631) to the FY10 e FY 2010 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to eliminate political science funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget. Defeated 36-62 on November 5, 2009.

About MPSA's Advocacy Efforts

The purposes of the MPSA are to promote the professional study and teaching of political science, to facilitate communications between those engaged in such study, and to develop standards for and encourage research in theoretical and practical political problems. As such, MPSA is a nonpartisan association. It does not support political parties or candidates. MPSA's advocacy and public awareness efforts have been designed to support researchers, political science as a discipline and the social sciences in general.  

MPSA's efforts support:

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Federal Statistical Agencies, Including The Census Bureau

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)

A multitude of additional social science and humanities programs

Please explore our website for additional resources to support your own advocacy efforts. Email questions to MPSA executive director William Morgan at (morgan at mpsanet dot org).