Friday, May 4, 2007

Defending Peer Review on the Floor of the House

Thank God for the levelheaded members of the House Committee on Science and Technology!

Today's hero is Rep. Baird, who, as the Chair of the Research Subcommittee, successfully defended the peer review process from overzealous republicans yesterday by helping to defeat two ridiculous amendments to the NSF Reauthorization Act that would have cut the funding for several specific studies that were considered "frivolous", such as a study of "accuracy in the cross-cultural understanding of others' emotions". Mr. Baird pointed out that "The scientific merit of a federal research grant often isn't obvious from "a cursory examination of the title or an abstract, that's why we have peer review." The man had clearly done his homework too, he went on to explain that the emotions study, for example, has been endorsed by the U.S. Army Research Institute because its findings could help soldiers correctly read the emotional expressions of people from other cultures and so avoid an accidental firefight that could kill fellow soldiers and innocent civilians.

The amendments were defeated by votes of 195-222 and 126-292, which I find a bit scary.

Way to go Mr. Baird!

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has a good article about it today.

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