Coburn: No more political science funding

The federal government should stop funding political science and leave the field to pundits and bloggers, says Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)

The Oklahoma Republican introduced an amendment yesterday to an annual appropriations bill that would eliminate funding for the National Science Foundation's political science research.

Coburn said cable news networks could fill the void, a statement that might horrify that nation's scholars.

"The University of Michigan may have some interesting theories about recent elections," Coburn's office said in a statement, "but Americans who have an interest in electoral politics can turn to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the print media, and a seemingly endless number of political commentators on the Internet."

Coburn said the funds spend on political science should be re-directed to the hard sciences.

"NSF spent $91.3 million over the last 10 years on political 'science,'" his statement said. "This amount could have been directed towards the study of biology, chemistry, geology, and physics. These are real fields of science in which new discoveries can yield real improvements in the lives of everyone.

The American Political Science Association (APSA) is mobilizing against the amendment, posting a message on their website for supporters to call their Senators.

"APSA encourages political scientists and anyone who values political science research to contact their Senator’s office TODAY to ask them to vote against Coburn’s amendment," a statement on their homepage reads.

Political scientists also took issue with Coburn's assertion that cable news could take the place of academic research.

"I tell my undergraduate students, There's a difference between arguing over pizza at 3 a.m. and doing actual hypothesis-testing," Professor Rich Lowry of the University of Texas-Dallas, told The Chronicle of Higher Education. "CNN has a lot of smart people, but at best it's all a very short-term cycle. They chew over the results from last night's election, and by the next week they're on to something else."