SOPA's daddy is now in charge of government science funding, and he hates peer-review

Lamar Smith (R-TX) is the goon who brought SOPA to the nation. Now he's in charge of science funding in the House, and he's got some spectacularly stupid ideas for science as a whole.

Stuart sez, "The new chair of the House of Representatives science committee has drafted a bill that, in effect, would replace peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a set of funding criteria chosen by Congress. For good measure, it would also set in motion a process to determine whether the same criteria should be adopted by every other federal science agency."

Smith's request to NSF didn't sit well with the top Democrat on the science committee, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). On Friday, she sent a blistering missive to Smith questioning his judgment and his motives.

"In the history of this committee, no chairman has ever put themselves forward as an expert in the science that underlies specific grant proposals funded by NSF," Johnson wrote in a letter obtained by ScienceInsider. "I have never seen a chairman decide to go after specific grants simply because the chairman does not believe them to be of high value."

In her letter, Johnson warns Smith that "the moment you compromise both the merit review process and the basic research mission of NSF is the moment you undo everything that has enabled NSF to contribute so profoundly to our national health, prosperity, and welfare." She asks him to "withdraw" his letter and offers to work with him "to identify a less destructive, but more effective, effort" to make sure NSF is meeting that mission.

U.S. Lawmaker Proposes New Criteria for Choosing NSF Grants (Thanks, Stuart!)

(Image: Congressman Lamar Smith visits JWST @ SXSW, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from nasawebbtelescope's photostream)


  1. Replace peer review?  Haha, that’s rich.  I’ve wanted to replace it many a time.  With my BOOT, that’s what.  But no, Mr. Smith, you’ve gone too far.

    1. You might think you’re joking, but I’ve come to believe there’s something fundamental conservatives don’t “get” about science.

      Some of us were taught to question everything and devise experiments and do research. But an awful lot of us were taught to shut the hell up and put the right answers on the test. The right answers are the one the authorities give you.

      That’s why trying to talk to a creationist about science (for example) is like talking to a wall.  You might have a smarty-pants PhD on your side, but they’ve got The Creator on theirs. Check. And mate.

      Rep. Smith is only proposing to replace one authority with another.  And who elected those so-called “peer reviewers,” anyway? If they’re so smart let’s see them run for Congress.

      1. i am a creationist and i question everything. you are talking about hard core Jesus freaks. i question god and evolution too. evolution has meany problem and believe in god has it problems too. you cannot prove or disprove each theory because you were not there at the beginning of time.

        1. And neither can you. So you’ll shut up now, right?

          Oh, sorry: I’m using that nasty logic again….

      2. I’ve come to believe there’s something fundamental conservatives don’t “get” about science.

        It’s plain as day. Otherwise they’d simply reject most of their value system, because the facts illustrate the typical conservative rationale to be untenably ludicrous.

        Maintaining such a mindset involves an awful lot of sticking fingers in ears and going LALALALALA, if not simply restricting one’s circles to echo chambers.

    2. I’m pretty sure Soviet science (well, after Stalin) was better than the “science” Smith wants us to have.

  2. I would enjoy Representative Smith’s review of proposals such as Topological Associative Manifolds Invariant under 1-Parameter Subgroups of G2 or maybe High Precision Simulations of Quantum Processes using Lattice Gauge Theory and Macdonald Polynomials or maybe Suppression of B-cell activation and IgE, IgA, IgG1 and IgG4 production by telomeric oligonucleotides…

    1. I have no bloody idea what any of those proposals mean, but if any of them have anything to do with trying to call anthropogenic global warming into doubt I’m betting Chair Smith, Republican of Texas, will stamp it with a big red “APPROVED.”

    2.  “Does that have anything to do with duck penises?  Or solar panels?” Can’t do anything with either of those. Or anything to do with animals having sex. They’ll have to figure that out without tax payer money.”

    1.  I read some graffiti a few years ago that read “fascism is the new normal.”  I couldn’t think of any rebuttals.

    2. my neighbor’s step-aunt makes $62 every hour on the computer. She has been without a job for five months but last month her paycheck was $12432 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on  Zap22.c­om

  3. The bill is called the “High Quality Research Act.”  1984 was not supposed to be a guide book, Rep. Lamar Smith.

    1.  Yup. He’s in that photo up there, sporting a tie that can be at best, tactfully described as ‘alarming’.

  4.  I imagine he’d call it all “lies straight from the pit of hell”, because isn’t that Republican for “something I don’t understand”?

    I mean, I don’t understand what all that meant, but I’m reasonable enough to get that my personal understanding isn’t the limit of human knowledge. Also, my perception of god doesn’t mean a damn thing to anyone other than me. I guess that makes me a liberal.

    1.  I’d wager bandying around that sort of reasonable behaviour could get you ‘sinner’, and ‘heretic’ too. ‘Socialist’, even.

    1.  troglodytes aren’t in the bible, just another lie from the science community that Lamar Smith will work to stamp out. along with evolution, global warming, and anything that might point to the earth being more than 6,000 years old.

  5. When does this moron come up for re-election and should we create a kickstarter to elect anybody else?

    1. It would have to be a lot of money to offset the sheer joy his Know-Nothing constituents take in his getting to vex educated people. It’s not like they elected him to actually perform effective governance — they want guys who deliberately mispronounce “nuclear” or who say their main goal in office is to make Obama a one-term President.

      1. That would be OK, within limits, for two reasons. First, if it established that Smith paid a political price for being such a flaming asshole. Second, because his replacement wouldn’t have the seniority he does.

        1. Good thinking on your second point, but recent history suggests that, as to your first point, if he got primaried, it wouldn’t be because of stuff like this, but because he failed some arbitrary conservative purity test.

          1. Test PAC did: Conservatives shouldn’t like somebody who took big money to do the bidding of “Liberal Hollywood”, either.

      2. Well, there’s at least one other Texan who’s capable of taking his Congressional seat…but she’s needed right where she is. Make sure you read this letter to Smith from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, the committee’s ranking member.

          1. I fully support the right of states to secede. Once they all go, I then support building an electrified fence along our southern border. Using Mexican labor.

  6. He is a Christian Science church member.  Yes, the church that believes all illness is caused by mistaken beliefs, and can only be cured through prayer.  THIS is the person deciding what scientific research is worth pursuing.

    However, he probably is a great representative of his District.  As long as he stays this crazy, he will be re-elected by them until he dies.  To give you an idea: in 2008, no Democrat even bothered to run against him.

    1. in 2008, no Democrat even bothered to run against him.

      … which is why he’ll have to be taken down in a primary challenge instead.

      1. You think conservatives have much reason to like his cozying up to interests like Hollywood though?

  7.  Yes, that will help keep your country on top of technological and economic development.  Politicizing science, a surefire way to maximum prosperity.

    1. That faction doesn’t care about prosperity as anything other than an election slogan; they only care about ideological purity.

        1. Absolute or relative prosperity? In absolute terms, nearly all Americans are richer than almost every human who has ever lived. Otherwise you have a god who grades on a curve, and says only x% of people can go to heaven.

          That is, either a) nearly everyone alive today is going to heaven, or b) there is no point in evangelizing if you’re at the top, because maybe you’ll get kicked out of the elect.

          Also – only true of a select subset of christian sects

      1.  I disagree.  They just think that prosperity comes from faith and old-fashioned planet busting business.  They care about prosperity more than most, at least for the lucky few who are already prosperous.

  8. A slight correction.  The quote is not mine, it is the first paragraph from the linked “Science” news article.

  9. Anybody remember a story or a documentary not too long ago about a Republican scientist who’d had enough of the lunatics on the school board and decided to run for a seat? Pretty sure it was in Texas. The most prominent sitting member was some woman who was leading the charge for Jeebus-based curriculum.

  10. Come back, William Proxmire, all is forgiven (*).

    (*) OK, not ‘all’. But let’s say that Rep. Smith has given us new perspective on your wacky shenanigans.

  11. If you voted for the far lesser evil Democrat (Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson) then please pat yourself on the back.

    If you didn’t vote because you think voting is worthless and all the Democrats and Republicans are exactly the same, then please bend over and have someone who did vote kick you in the ass.

    1.  This fucking idiot is now my Rep. I used to have the wonderful Lloyd Doggett, but I was gerrymandered into this fools district (by something like a couple of blocks). The only good thing is that NOW I can actually vote against him.

  12. Given that our military has depended heavily on scientific innovation to succeed in conflicts with our enemies, the deliberate hobbling of scientific innovation meets the definition of treason in that it would be giving aid and comfort to our enemies.  He might not be executed, but if they convicted him of treason he’d no longer be able to hold office. He’d just be a commentator on Fox.  

  13. ok, WHAT-THE-FUCK!? i don’t want to live on this planet anymore. this makes me more angry than perhaps anything i’ve read before. that this ASSHAT is in charge of science funding is enraging, and that he would seek to undermine science, the very thing that has made us prosperous, the very thing that has given us everything we enjoy, increased our life expectancy and standard of living, that this man who rejects science is in charge of science funding is enraging. this guy produces nothing but terrible bills, he is wholly ignorant of that which he tries to legislate, he is exactly the kind of person who should NEVER be allowed to have ANY power.

    what the hell is happening to this planet, it’s not just the US (though perhaps centred in the US and spreading like miasma) all around the world it’s like there is a concerted effort to undermine the foundation of civilized society, to remove the consent of the governed from governance, to undermine science and critical thinking, to eliminate privacy and spy on absolutely everything everyone does.  it’s like someone is going down the list of the bill of rights and just removing them one by one. why? and what can be done? we complain, we call and petition and (e)mail our representatives til the communication lines seize, we make it clear we don’t want these things and they simply hide the activity and smuggle it in through trade agreements. they are not listening to the people,  and they are making peaceful change impossible. and they must know that will inevitably lead to violent insurrection but still they continue. is it that they feel invincible now with their surveillance state and automated drones and feel they needn’t fear the people for the people will be unable to organize a resistance?

    i honestly want to believe there is still a line of communication, that there is still a way back, that we can have our privacy and our freedom back, that we can roll back these horrible acts, and get politicians that won’t try passing more and that all this can be done without violence. i honestly, truly, want that to be the case.

  14. An ignorant arsehole in the exact position of power he shouldn’t be anywhere close to?
    Pull the other one!  The internet is not a dump truck, people.

  15. How do we get rid of this guy? Isn’t there any other viable candidate in his district? Looks like his district is out in the sticks around San Antonio and Austin.

    1. He’s been in his seat for 26 years. He’s not going anywhere unless you can find a video of him sucking underage, illegal immigrant dick while urinating on a Bible.

  16. Chairman
    Smith’s Statement on Draft NSF Legislation


    Washington, D.C. –
    Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)
    issued the following statement in response to misinformation regarding draft
    legislation that improves accountability for the National Science Foundation
    (NSF) grant process.  At a recent Science Committee hearing,
    White House Office of Science and Technology Director John Holdren testified
    that there is “room for improvement” in how NSF prioritizes research
    initiatives.  In an effort to improve NSF research grants, Chairman Smith
    circulated draft legislation for discussion to Science Committee Democratic staff,
    the NSF and the Obama Administration.  


    The two-and-a-half
    page draft legislation helps ensure that taxpayer-funded research projects are
    of high quality and benefit the American people.  The Committee will
    continue to seek input from stakeholders before the bill is introduced.


    Chairman Smith: 
    “It is the job of Congress and the NSF to make sure that taxpayer dollars are
    spent responsibly.  I support basic research, which can lead to
    discoveries that change our world, expand our horizons and save lives.  For
    example, we should prioritize research projects like the brain mapping
    initiative that may help cure Alzheimer’s, autism, epilepsy, and brain


    “The draft bill
    maintains the current peer review process and improves on it by adding a layer
    of accountability. The intent of the draft legislation is to ensure that
    taxpayer dollars are spent on the highest-quality research possible. 


    “The draft
    legislation was the result of bipartisan discussions about how NSF grants
    should be prioritized. It was circulated to Committee Democratic staff, the NSF
    and the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.  This was a
    first step in what we hoped would be a bipartisan initiative to improve
    accountability of NSF grants. 


    “I circulated the
    draft legislation so we could have a meaningful discussion about how best to
    improve the NSF grant process.  It is disappointing that instead of
    accepting the invitation to work together to prioritize the spending of
    taxpayer dollars, some have chosen to play politics and misrepresent the nature
    of the draft bill. 


    “Congress has a
    responsibility to review research paid for by hard-working American
    taxpayers.  And I hope that both Committee Democrats and the Obama
    administration will work with me to ensure that taxpayer dollars fund
    highest-quality research.”


    Background: In
    an April 25 letter
    to Acting Director of the NSF, Dr. Cora Marrett, Chairman Smith asked
    for more information about five NSF grants.  Specifically, Chairman Smith
    asked for an explanation about how the below grants adhere to NSF’s
    “intellectual merit” guideline:


    Award Abstract #1247824: “Picturing Animals in
    National Geographic, 1888-2008,” March 15, 2013, ($227,437);


    Award Abstract #1230911: “Comparative Histories
    of Scientific Conservation: Nature, Science, and Society in Patagonian and
    Amazonian South America,” September 1, 2012 ($195,761);


    Award Abstract #1230365: “The International
    Criminal Court and the Pursuit of Justice,” August 15, 2012 ($260,001);


    Award Abstract #1226483, “Comparative Network
    Analysis: Mapping Global Social Interactions,” August 15, 2012, ($435,000); and


    Award Abstract #1157551: “Regulating
    Accountability and Transparency in China’s Dairy Industry,” June 1, 2012

    1. About the kind of spin control one would expect. Does Smith actually think NSF doesn’t want to fund high-quality research, or that Congress can somehow improve research quality by legislative fiat? (On second thoughts, don’t answer that — if he’s so naïve he actually believes that, it would be even worse than the working assumption, that he’s a cynical political hack.)

      Does anyone think an honest scientist or engineer would ever testify, under oath, that there is no “room for improvement”? Using that statement as grounds for legislative meddling is either a cynical ploy, or a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific mindset.

      I haven’t yet seen a link to the draft legislation. It would be interesting to see it, in exactly the same way it’s not interesting to see a press release from Lamar Smith.

    2. I question his questioning of grant #5.  Is his complaint that it’s NSF rather than USDA grant money?

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