Help keep anthropology in the NSF

(this from the AAA — this has also been making the rounds on other lists)

Dear AAA Member:

Please consider this request for immediate action. This is likely one of the most important requests for action you will ever receive from the AAA as it involves a legislative threat to National Science Foundation research funding for the social and behavioral sciences. At a meeting of the Senate Commerce Committee TODAY, an authorizing bill – S. 2802 – focusing on American competitiveness will be marked up (i.e. negotiated). It is imperative that legislators hear from the social and behavioral science community before this bill is finalized. Please review the following and make a call:

ACTION NEEDED: If your Senator is listed below, please call or email your senator this morning regarding a proposed amendment by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) that would instruct the National Science Foundation (NSF) to direct its resources primarily to the physical sciences. It is likely that the Hutchison amendment would significantly reduce or eliminate NSF funding for the social sciences. Congress should not be micromanaging the NSF, which supports fundamental research in all science disciplines, including anthropology.

MESSAGE: Please contact your senator, identify yourself as a constituent, and communicate the following simple messages:

OPPOSE the Hutchison amendment to S. 2802 (the “American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006”) which excludes the behavioral and social sciences from consideration in the awarding of NSF research grants, and undercuts their role in advancing national innovation and competitiveness.

SUPPORT the amendment to S. 2802 sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) which would eliminate the section of S. 2802 that prescribes research priorities to the NSF.

BACKGROUND: Since last fall’s release of the National Academy of Sciences report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” – a congressionally requested report offering a set of recommendations aimed at restoring U.S. advantages in the marketplace, specifically in scientific and technology – significant congressional and executive branch attention has been focused on U.S. innovation and competitiveness. A range of legislative initiatives have been introduced to promote innovation and competitiveness in various ways. S. 2802 – authorizing legislation that frames spending parameters but does not appropriate funds – is the latest of these initiatives. Although S. 2802 is only authorizing legislation, it should be noted that many of the senators who will be voting on it also serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee which has spending authority for the NSF.

Members of the Senate Commerce Committee who need to be contacted ASAP:

Ted Stevens (R-AK)
TEL: 202.224.3004

John McCain (R-AZ)
TEL: 202.224.2235

Conrad Burns (R-MT)
TEL: 202.224.2644

Trent Lott (R-MS)
TEL: 202.224.6253

Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
TEL: 202.224.5344

Gordon Smith (R-OR)
TEL: 202.224.3753

John Ensign (R-NV)
TEL: 202.224.6244

John Sununu (R-NH)
TEL: 202.224.2841

Jim DeMint (R-SC)
TEL: 202.224.6121

Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
TEL: 202.224.3934

John Rockefeller (D-WVA)
TEL: 202.224.6472

John Kerry (D-MA)
TEL: 202.224.2742

Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
TEL: 202.224.2551

Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
TEL: 202.224.3553

Bill Nelson (D-FL)
TEL: 202.224.5274

Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
TEL: 202.224.3441

Ben Nelson (D-NE)
TEL: 202.224.6551

Mark Pryor (D-AR)
TEL: 202.224.2353

David Vitter (R-LA)

TEL: 202.224.4623

George Allen (R-VA)

TEL: 202.224.4024

Any questions, please call Paul Nuti at the AAA office – contacts below.

Paul J. Nuti

Director of External, International & Government Relations

American Anthropological Association

2200 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 600

Arlington, VA 22201

TEL: 703/528-1902 x3008

FAX: 703/528-3546




Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

6 thoughts on “Help keep anthropology in the NSF

  1. As a former recipient of an NSF grant, I should be gung-ho in favor of keeping social science on the grant list. However … given that a significant number of anthros, and others, seem to be rejecting the whole scientific paradigm, how is it that we’re scientists when the money is handed out, and anti-science at other times?

  2. I’ve never met an anthropologist who was “anti-science”. I’ve met and read the work of anthros who recognized the cultral embeddedness of scientific discourses, or anthros who challenged the privileging of science over local forms of knowledge, or anthros who questioned the ideological role of science in colonial and post-colonial political maneuvering. But one who was “anti-science”? What, they fly to work every day? Picket the publishers of “Origin of Species”? Only use machinery that produces more energy than it consumes?

    I don’t see any contradiction between NSF funding and anthropology — granted, my own work is far more humanistic and wouldn’t really fit the NSF’s guidelines, but for someone studying, say, folks’ interaction with their physical environment, or the way people apprehend and comprehend new information, or the relation between childhood development and the cultural environment, I don’t see any reason why it would not be in both their interests and the NSF’s to use NSF funding.

  3. I’ve always felt that the biggest problem with science is that not enough scientists read the sociology of science – which is as good an argument as any for more NSF funding of the social sciences! I still wince when I remember being marked down for a Physical Anthropology exam in which I criticized Popper’s idealized vision of scientific discourse …

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