Report defends the value of social sciences

Investment in social sciences has led to advances in national defense, health, and industry among other areas, according to a report by the non-governmental National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Why it matters: When legislators are asked to make cuts to science funding, the social sciences are often at the top of the list. By commissioning an independent report, the NSF appears to be trying to lend credence to their argument that the directorate is valuable and its funding should be untouched.

"One can imagine that the NSF was looking for an authoritative, independent and objective voice to speak to questions about the value of the social, behavioral, and economic sciences," says Ed Liebow, executive director of the American Anthropological Association. Much of anthropology research is funded through NSF grants.

Go deeper: The Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences directorate has been a frequent target of Republican legislators. In a March 21 hearing, for example, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) almost exclusively cited social science studies as examples of waste. Other proposals have tried to direct NSF funding to four main directorates – biology, computer science, physics, and engineering – or to increase government oversight of the NSF's grant-review process.