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Smith and the NSF

Representative Lamar Smith (R–Texas) continued his campaign criticizing the peer-review process at the US National Science Foundation during a budget hearing last week, ScienceInsider reports. But, it adds that groups that previously pushed back appear to have accepted his argument that NSF's research must be "in the national interest."

Smith, the chair of the US House of Representatives science committee, has long sought to change how NSF chooses which grants to fund. He has called for NSF to certify that each grant it funds is in the national interest, which opponents in the past have argued would apply a "political litmus test" to research. Smith has previously called out certain grants he thought were frivolous.

NSF Director France Córdova has sought to assuage his concerns by adding a line to online award descriptions that the work would reflect NSF's mission, ScienceInsider adds, but it notes Smith "was not satisfied."

Additionally, it says that Smith's years of criticism has "changed the nature of the conversation." It notes that Rep. Don Beyer (D–VA), who has been am NSF defender, floated the possibility that the agency could have another, nonpartisan person review grants to ensure they line up with the agency's mission. Beyer, ScienceInsider notes, acknowledged it was a "dangerous idea" and that a staffer called it a "cringe-worthy" moment.

Smith announced in November that he wouldn't be seeking re-election.