April 30, 2013
The American Academy of Religion supports a diversity of approaches to the study of religion, including those used by political scientists. Recently Congress severely cut National Science Foundation funding for political science research. In response, the April 2013 meeting of the AAR Board of Directors endorsed the following American Council of Learned Society statement about this important matter.
As an ACLS member, the AAR will continue to advocate for federal funding of political science research, along with our advocacy for research and teaching in all the Humanities, particularly in these difficult days of shortsighted budget cuts.
The American Council of Learned Societies urges the Congress to restore adequate funding for research in political science by the National Science Foundation and to remove restrictions on peer-reviewed judgment of the value of the research to be supported.
Democracy is a complex, living phenomenon, and like all such complexities, it demands study. Funding from the National Science Foundation has been essential to producing and maintaining data on electoral behavior and public opinion that not only are essential resources to scholars in many fields, but crucial to public debate. The recent budget amendment proposed by Senator Coburn aims to limit federal funding to topics related to national security and economic competitiveness. Our democratic polity is the ultimate source of both. Peer-reviewed research offers a way to understand dispassionately and fearlessly what may be difficult or controversial about our common life and our politics, for the benefit of all.
When the Congress established the National Science Foundation in 1950, it wisely safeguarded the integrity of the research process by mandating that independent experts evaluate the merit of projects to be funded. This principle of peer-review has served the nation well in the funding of research in science, medicine, the social sciences, and the humanities. We urge the Congress to continue its support of this essential practice without limitation.