The New Yorker spread the “Lamar Smith wants to kill peer review” rumor

The New Yorker has a piece up about how Lamar Smith’s new bill will get rid of peer review at the National Science Foundation. As far as I can tell, the bill would do no such thing.

Currently, proposals are evaluated through a traditional peer-review process, in which scientists and experts with knowledge of the relevant fields evaluate the projects’ “intellectual merits” and “broader impacts.” Peer review is a central tenet of modern academic science, and, according to critics, the new bill threatens to supersede it with politics.

This paragraph would be fine, if it were followed by a clear statement that the last sentence, while it may be true “according to critics” is not, you know, actually true. There’s nothing in the text of the bill that can reasonably be described in this way.

If I were full of nostalgia for the glory days of the New Yorker, I’d say something at this point about William Shawn spinning in his grave, but I’m not, so I won’t.

(Just to shore up my anti-Republican bona fides, let me repeat some things from my earlier post. Despite the fact that this bill is being mischaracterized by its critics, it’s still a bad idea, and Lamar Smith and many of his fellow Congressional Republicans are indeed Enemies of Science.)

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Ted Bunn

I am an associate professor of physics at the University of Richmond. In addition to teaching a variety of undergraduate physics courses, I work on a variety of research projects in cosmology, the study of the origin, structure, and evolution of the Universe. University of Richmond undergraduates are involved in all aspects of this research. If you want to know more about my research, ask me!

3 thoughts on “The New Yorker spread the “Lamar Smith wants to kill peer review” rumor”

  1. The people expressing those opinions are certainly worthy of respect, and I’m open to the possibility that I’m missing something important, but the fact remains that the publicly-available text of the bill does not contain any language that justifies the “kill peer review” claim.

    Smith’s letter to NSF inquiring about particular grants is actually considerably worse than this proposed bill.

  2. On the other hand, they spelled ‘supersede’ correctly, which (as I can tell you on good authority as someone who reads legal documents all the time) is not at all a sure thing.

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