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A bill currently on Capitol Hill proposes to promote scientific innovation by gutting funding of social sciences and geosciences—including research on human behavior, economics, and climate change. 

All Sciences Fundamental to Competitive Future

June 25, 2015

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A bill currently on Capitol Hill proposes to promote scientific innovation by gutting funding of social sciences and geosciences—including research on human behavior, economics, and climate change.

In a vote along partisan lines, the House narrowly approved the America Competes Reauthorization Act in May. The legislation would expand STEM funding by sharply limiting the capacity of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other federal agencies to fund other scientific disciplines, primarily social sciences and geosciences. NSF opposes the bill as undercutting essential interdisciplinary research.

In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, Cornell Dean of Engineering Lance Collins condemned this “shortsighted effort to save money.” He argues that “social sciences are more important today than ever,” because meaningful advances in national security and competitiveness will require the tools of these disciplines, working in tandem with engineering and the physical sciences. Collins writes:

As an educator at a leading research institution, I know that the future will involve ever-increasing interdisciplinary research taking place across ever-widening intellectual landscapes. Decades ago, pioneers worked at the interface between the sciences and engineering. Today, we create links among science, engineering, economics, public policy, law, and communications to address global challenges such as how to ensure that plentiful energy, food, and potable water is available around the world. Such problems require more than just technical solutions.

The Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future seeds research that crosses disciplinary lines to take on the complex sustainability challenges facing our planet. We believe that novel cross-disciplinary collaborations have the greatest potential to pioneer new approaches and achieve game-changing innovations in energy, the environment, and economic development. More than half of our 2015 Academic Venture Fund teams include a social scientist.

In 2015, we launched an innovative faculty-in-residence fellowship designed to bring more social science, humanities, and arts faculty into the ACSF community. Working on topics ranging from international climate justice to subconscious stereotypes in sustainability messaging, economic modeling of payments for ecosystem services, and the politics of energy policy, 11 Cornell faculty will join us as fellows next year.

Read Lance Collins’s op-ed in the Washington Post.

Read an in-depth analysis of the America Competes Reauthorization Act in Science Insider.