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House Science Chair to Retire

Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) won't be seeking another term, the Associated Press reports. He was first elected in 1986, it adds.

In 2012, Smith became chair of the US House of Representatives' Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which oversees a number of science research agencies, including the National Science Foundation. As chair, Smith repeatedly sought to change how NSF approves grants and called for the agency to certify that each grant it funded was in the national interest. Critics said that the requirement would apply a "political litmus test" to research and hamper studies into controversial areas such as climate science. Smith also scrutinized studies funded by the agency that he deemed frivolous. Science reports that under Smith's leadership, some science lobbyists say the committee became "cesspool of bitter partisanship."

Smith this year took aim at that journal itself and argued that Science was not "objective." The journal had run a piece by Pennsylvania State University climate researcher Michael Mann that criticized how Smith, a climate change skeptic, ran the committee. At the time, Snopes said Smith's pronouncement drew an audible response from the audience in the gallery.

The AP adds that Smith's term as science committee chair is up at the end of 2018. "[T]his seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else," Smith says in a statement, according to the AP.