The politically motivated attack on political science NSF funding and who it really hurts

As a member of the Midwest Political Science Association, I received an email from the leadership informing us, "On March 20, 2013, the Senate passed a modified amendment to H.R. 933to restrict NSF funding for Political Science to research projects that promote the 'national security or the economic interests of the United States.' The original amendment would have entirely removed all funding for political science research, and in a few months, there will be another effort in Congress to do just that." 

Earlier, I wrote a posting about the motivations of the current effort to defund National Science Foundation grants for political science.  Long story made short:  it appears that it is politics as usual.  Several GOP senators don't like the kind of research coming out of political science, specifically the fact that some of that research findings is contrary to their ideological views.

In this posting I want to make clear who is actually being harmed by defunding or severely restricting funding to political science, and that group is political science graduate students in training to get their Ph.Ds.  A large number of NSF grants are for "dissertation improvement", and are only for graduate students, not professors.  If one is a graduate student doing expensive and ambitious research which requires: extensive domestic or international travel (domestically, think multi-city/multi-state travel), or you need to purchase an expensive data set, or you need expensive equipment (cameras, recording equipment, transcription equipment), or services (transcription or translation services), often the NSF dissertation improvement grant is the only source of funding you can apply to. 

Most academic departments cover their students' tuition and living expenses, but not funding needed to actually carry out the research.  Graduate programs may have small grants, about $1000 or so would be considered extremely generous (and rare), available to fund graduate students doing this kind of research and Ph.D. students are expected to apply for outside funding like NSF.  So if NSF funding was restricted or dramatically cut back on, the group hurting the most would be graduate students. 

Restricting or contracting NSF funding would of course hurt professors engaged in research, but not to the extent that it would harm graduate students.  NSF grants to professors cannot be used for salary except summer salary; it also cannot be used for teaching release.  Either way, a tenure-track or tenured professor will still get a paycheck.  The NSF funding to professors can only be used for research expenses including hiring graduate students to help carry out that research.  In addition to Teaching Assistantships, Graduate Research Assistant-ships are a crucial source of basic income for graduate students.  

Perhaps this is the intent of those seeking to defund political science NSF grants, defund the messengers and their next generation if you don't like the research they are doing.

If you wish to write your Member of Congress and President Obama urging them to preserve NSF funding to Political Science, please click on the link here.