The Obama administration and the scientific community at large are expressing serious alarm at a House Republican bill that they argue would dramatically undermine way research is conducted in America.
Titled the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014," the bill would put a variety of new restrictions on how funds are doled out by the National Science Foundation. The goal, per its Republican supporters on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, would be to weed out projects whose cost can't be justified or whose sociological purpose is not apparent.
For Democrats and advocates, however, the FIRST Act represents a dangerous injection of politics into science and a direct assault on the much-cherished peer-review process by which grants are awarded.
This is terrible news because politicians aren't scientists. Worse, politicians don't understand science. All politicians understand is how to react to buzzwords, and how to be outraged about those buzzwords to score some votes. That's how George W. Bush came to be obsessed with stem cells. That's how Sarah Palin can get a room full of angry old people to boo fruit fly research. Handing the purse strings over to a bunch of rich assholes who malign evolution as "just a theory" and who use cold weather as an argument against global warming is the fastest way to turn this country into a full-bore idiocracy.