Political science needs funds

By By Tina Parsons

By Tina Parsons

Political science is an important study of our political culture and climate in America. The research the discipline produces is relevant and necessary to bring the human element into government.

In opposition to this, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, has proposed prohibiting the National Science Foundation from “wasting any federal research funding on political science projects.” This seems not only reckless, but also dangerous.

“This is a more pointed amendment than you typically have,” said Matthew Burbank, a professor of political science at the U. “In the amendment, Coburn takes issue with political science research itself, and that is unusual.”

According to Burbank, the federal government has to have priorities when it comes to research funding. The wording in this amendment is more a show of Coburn’s belief and dislike for the social science field than as a priority-setting measure.

The larger concern is that Coburn is sending a message that the only “real” research takes place in biology and medicine. What Coburn is missing is the human element that is a must in the political arena.

This debate is taking place as the Senate gets ready to vote on the spending bill for federal science funding, which includes the NSF. Coburn has introduced an amendment that would stop the science agency from funding political science projects, arguing that the money would be better spent on “real” science.

The cost to fund political science research is not even a drop in the bucket compared to Coburn’s so-called real science research.

How this could affect the political science department at the U remains to be seen. This major is usually a spring board for students going into other fields. Many within the political science department go into careers in law, social work and various humanities areas.

What is certain is that without political science research funding, the field will ultimately suffer. During the past 10 years, $112 million dollars has been allotted by NSF for research projects. That is a small price to pay when discovering the impact legislation has on people.

Priorities do need to be set, but cutting funding to the political science field is not the place to start, nor does it significantly decrease the spending of our federal government.

burn’s efforts to have his bills passed this year have been, for the most part, unsuccessful. According to Matt Blackwell, a graduate student at Harvard University, the chance of this bill passing is slight, so political scientists have little to fear. Americans need political scientists and the research they produce to keep them in touch with what is happening in our government. Trying to take away their funding will not silence the message. Still, it is unnerving that the thought has even been raised.

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