Coburn, Krugman feud over political science funds

Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-Okla.) fight to eliminate federal funding for political science has turned into a feud with NY Times columnist Paul Krugman.

Coburn proposed an amendment last week to the Senate Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill that would block any money for the National Science Foundation (NSF) from going to political science projects. Coburn noted that the NSF once gave money to to Krugman, The New York Times columnist, Nobel laureate and staunch critic of Republican economic policy.

The foundation's political science program "siphons resources away from research that promises greater scientific discoveries with real world benefits," according to a fact sheet on Coburn's amendment put out by his office. (H/T Crooked Timber.)

The amendment aims to steer federal research money "on the important scientific endeavors that can expand our knowledge of true science and yield breakthroughs and discoveries that can improve the human condition," Coburn's office said. The NSF has spent $91.3 million over the past decade "on political 'science,'" Coburn said in a statement.

Among the NSF-funded projects knocked by Coburn are a conference on the effect of YouTube on the 2008 election, 2008 GOP convention coverage by "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" and research by Krugman.

Krugman on his blog pushed back against Coburn's amendment.

"Um, I’m not a political scientist," he wrote. "Also, I can’t quite remember when I last received NSF support, but it has to be at least 20 years ago — and it was, of course, for work on international trade, work that, you know, won me a Clark Medal and that other prize."

(Here's a list of grants Krugman has received from NSF. The 1978 grant led to his Nobel, and last grant he received was in 1994.)

"That other prize" is his 2008 Nobel Prize for economics, awarded for his analysis of international trade and concentration of wealth.

And in a blog post yesterday, Krugman noted that one of this year's co-recipients of the Nobel in economics also received NSF funding. ("Don't tell Senator Coburn," Krugman quipped.)

Coburn's amendment may come up for a vote this week when the Senate considers the Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill.