Someone has actually read Lamar Smith’s bill

Daniel Sarawitz, in Nature:

Actually, the bill doesn’t say or imply anything at all about replacing peer review. It doesn’t give Congress new powers over the NSF, nor does it impose on the NSF any new responsibilities. Yes, it requires that the NSF director “certifies” that projects funded by the agency are “in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare”, that the research “is of the finest quality, is ground breaking” and so on. But these vague requirements merely rearticulate the same promises that scientists and government agencies use all the time to justify their existence.

In other words, it’s not a very good bill, but neither is it much of a threat.

Sarawitz’s larger point in this article is quite unclear to me. If you want to know what he’s getting at, you’ll have to read it yourself, because I don’t understand it even well enough to summarize it. But at least he’s not spreading the “killing-peer-review” panic.


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Ted Bunn

I am chair of the physics department 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!