Action Statement & Talking Points Threat to the Political Science Program at the National Science Foundation

Coburn Amendment of 2013 Talking Points

Updated March 22, 2013

Action Statement:

Reject the continuation or re-adoption of the unprecedented restrictions on the national science agenda by prohibiting National Science Foundation funding of the political science study of democracy and public policy .. (modified version of the Coburn Amendment, SA65, to HR933)

Talking Points:

The adoption of the Coburn Amendment was a devastating blow to the integrity of the scientific process at the National Science Foundation

Singling out any particular field of science for attack is short-sighted and poses a major threat to the widely- respected, independent scholarly agenda setting process at the NSF.

This amendment creates a dangerous slippery slope that makes all scientific research vulnerable to the whims of political pressure.

Political science research is instrumental in the implementation of the NSF charter which is to "promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare.."

Shackling political science within the national science agenda is a remarkable embarrassment for the world's exemplary democracy.


Talking Points for NSF Political Science Funding

Action Statement:

It is in the interest of our nation to support the National Science Foundation (NSF) and political science as a critical part of our national science agenda. Members of Congress should oppose (1) any efforts that weaken or eliminate the NSF and (2) any effort to single out political science for elimination.

Talking Points:

Political science research is essential to well-rounded and comprehensive public debate in a free society and expands our understanding of citizenship, governance, and public policy.

The integrity and rigor of the scientific review process is at stake.

The allocation of awards by NSF involves a rigorous process of peer review by scientists who are experts in their respective fields.

The review process for political science proposals is highly competitive and yields an acceptance rate of less than 20%.

Political science research is an integral component of the national science agenda.

Political scientists are actively engaged in interdisciplinary research.

Political science research facilitates substantive and technical advances in other disciplines.

Targeting any single discipline will have a chilling effect on inquiry, innovation, and creativity within and among all fields of study.

The elimination of political science funding will have wide-spread and devastating consequences for basic research on fundamental issues of peace, freedom, and democracy, and public debate on critical issues facing the nation and the world.

Issues range from national security and terrorism; public health; and voting, campaigns, and elections; to public opinion and democratic representation; and checks and balances and separation powers to name but a few.

NSF has facilitated collaboration among policy makers and political scientists, most notably in the areas of defense. A familar example:  

Social and Behavioral Dimensions of National Security, Conflict and Cooperation (also known as the Minerva Initiative with Department of Defense)

Details about many of these projects can be learned from the scientists themselves, who have presented their work on websites such as,

The Monkey Cage
Brendan Nyhan
The Duck of Minerva

Political science research has wide-spread effects beyond specific projects.

Research supports and trains college undergraduate students.
Research supports and trains graduate students.
Research improves teaching and promotes innovative pedagogy.
Research promotes excellence in student and faculty recruitment.
Research enhances the reputation of programs and institutions.
Research develops statistical and other tools with interdisciplinary applicability.

 Send any questions or comments to [email protected].

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