The Republican Texas Congressjerk maintains a flying squad of political officers who descend upon the NSF to pore through its grant records looking for evidence of ideologically impure science.
Smith then takes their reports and uses them for pig-ignorant political grandstanding, for example, dismissing a study on the difficulty of describing how to pilot a vehicle — a critical area in driver and pilot training — as a boondoggle intended to "improve bicycle design." Smith's top priority (obviously) is anything to do with climate change, but it seems he never met a government funded science program he liked.
Which should not surprise anyone, because this is the guy who created and shepherded SOPA through Congress, and designed the farcical "expert hearings," at which no one from the tech industries was invited to speak.
What is Smith's end game? Is he trolling for material to justify halting NSF funding of the social sciences? Or, is he hoping to find enough "evidence" to push through proposed legislation—the "FIRST Act"— that would alter NSF's peer-review system and prioritize scientific research that Congress deems to be most "in the national interest"? (At this point, Congressional observers say the legislation has about a 30% chance of passing both the House and the Senate.)
At the very least, Smith is finding plenty of material to portray himself as champion against frivolous spending.
The GOP Intensifies Its Attacks On The National Science Foundation [Mark Strauss/IO9]
(Image: US Congressman Lamar Smith, Public Domain)