Monday, June 18, 2012

Misstep by the NSF

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) has joined with more than 120 other organizations by signing a letter to the U.S. Senate concerning the 2013 funding for the National Science Foundation. The central issue is that the Senate is cutting some funds for NSF that were to be applied to some programs. The AIP and other organizations objected to the idea that Congress is attempting to micromanage the NSF. Specifically, two programs, one on climate change education and another political science program, are targeted to be cut. In this regard, I believe the letter signers and NSF are in the wrong and it will hurt the battle over educating the public about climate change.

The problem isn't that NSF is engaging in educating the public about climate change. I think that is a very good and necessary thing we need to be doing. The problem is that this is already being done by other agencies, such as NASA and the Department of Education. The targeted program is even a duplication within the NSF itself which already has the Climate Education Program (CCE). The Duplication and overlap of activities is a real problem in government and was one of the driving factors behind these cuts for NSF. A good clue that this is a redundant program is the fact that its mission has changed from one directed at K-12 to one directed at graduate and undergraduate students. A change in mission is a big warning sign that this is nothing more than empire building.

NSF and its supporters should drop this one. They are giving climate change deniers ammo to use in their fight for the public's mind on global warming. The deniers will be able to cite this as an example of government waste. And, their logic will say, since this government spending on climate change is a waste so is all other government spending on climate change. I know the argument is a false one, but the public readily buys into those kinds of arguments.

The deniers won this one, let's not make it better for them by dragging this out.

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