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National Science Foundation Cancels a Round of Political-Science Grants

The National Science Foundation has scrapped its next cycle of grants for political-science studies, Nature reports, and scholars in the field are speculating that the agency did so in response to pressure from Congress, which in March imposed strict conditions on NSF funds for political-science research.

The restrictions, contained in a Senate amendment to a spending bill for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year, stipulate that the NSF cannot approve any grants involving political science unless the agency can certify them “as promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States.”

The agency did not explain its reasons for eliminating the current grant cycle, which had a mid-August application deadline. John H. Aldrich, a political scientist at Duke University, said the decision suggests that the agency buckled under the uncertainty of how to interpret the Congressional restrictions. Michael Brintnall, executive director of the American Political Science Association, agreed: “It’s hard to imagine that it’s not a factor in the decision,” he told the magazine.

The August cycle is one of two the NSF holds each year to award grants from an annual budget of roughly $10-million for political science. The agency’s Web site says that it will hold its next call for political-science proposals in January, as usual. The Congressional restrictions are set to expire on September 30, the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

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