May 16, 2013
The Honorable Lamar Smith
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
U.S. House of Representatives
2321 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Chairman,
We are writing on behalf of the Center for Inquiry (CFI), a nonprofit organization that advocates for public policy based on reason, science, and secular values. Our letter concerns your draft legislative proposal currently being cited as the “High Quality Research Act.” We strongly believe that this measure is both unnecessary and potentially harmful to science research supported by the United States government.
As drafted, your bill would require a certification process for grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that supersedes the peer review system that NSF has used so successfully. Specifically, your bill would require the NSF director to certify that a research project meets three criteria before awarding a grant to fund the project. The certification must state that the project:
(1) is in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or
welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science;
(2) is the finest quality, is ground breaking, and answers questions or solves problems
that are of utmost importance to society at large, and;
(3) is not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other
federal science agencies.
Your bill also suggests that these requirements be considered for all federal science agencies. However, these requirements represent a serious misunderstanding of the nature of scientific inquiry and discovery and, if approved, would not facilitate, but instead obstruct productive scientific research.