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Certain Science Projects

Researchers funded by the US National Science Foundation whose projects are under investigation by the chair of the House science committee tell the Chronicle of Higher Education's Paul Baskin that it's a "witch hunt."

"It saddens me that elected officials are attacking science in this way," says University at Albany anthropologist Robert Rosenswig, who studies Mexican history with his NSF grant.

Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chair of the House science committee, has sent aides to comb through NSF grant records, a continuation of his criticism of grants with titles like "Picturing Animals in National Geographic" and "Regulating Accountability and Transparency in China's Dairy Industry," Baskin says.

Smith has also recently called on the science agency to justify how it award grants and has introduced legislation aimed at changing the NSF grant review process. Smith says that taxpayers are owed an accounting of why their money is being spent on certain projects.

"We all believe in academic freedom for scientists, but federal research agencies have an obligation to explain to American taxpayers why their money is being used on such research instead of on higher priorities," Smith says in a statement to Baskin.

Jeffrey Mervis at ScienceInsider recently reported that Democratic aides are also going through NSF grants to find ways to rebut claims of wasteful spending.

"Although I respect the oversight right and responsibility of Congress," the University of California, Davis' Mont Hubbard, an emeritus professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at whose work on bicycle design has been targeted, tells Baskin, "I find it disturbing that the committee apparently thinks they can do a better job of deciding what is in the nation's interest scientifically than NSF can."