An Update on Political Science at the NSF

In summer 2019, the National Science Foundation announced plans to rebrand several programs within the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate. The changes included the proposal to restructure  the Political Science Program by creating   two new programs: Accountable Institutions and Behavior (AIB) and Security and Preparedness (SAP) in place of the existing program.   Political scientists would then be expected to submit research proposals to these two new programs.  Subsequently, APSA expressed concerns that these changes would unintentionally limit the scope of research funded under the original program and that the change could negatively impact the diversity of proposals and applicants.

On August 30, NSF officially replaced the Political Science program with the two new programs. The agency issued a Dear Colleague letter in September announcing the changes to political science and other programs in the SBE directorate.

In response to the political science community’s feedback following the official announcement, the NSF restored the Political Science program for a year-long transitional period  to allow the NSF to evaluate the potential impact of the change.  Thus,researchers may submit to the political science program generally, but are encouraged by NSF to submit through the AIB and SAP programs. The program officers for these two programs are also responsible for the Political Science program.

APSA greatly appreciates  the openness of the SBE leadership to further study and welcomes additional consultation on the future of political science at the NSF.  We certainly share  NSF’s commitment to broadening participation in science and the agency’s belief in the power of social science to improve the lives of the American public. We have also engaged with members of Congress who share this commitment and look forward to collaborating with both branches of government to celebrate and support the critical political science research funded by the NSF.

We remain concerned that the potential removal of the program obscures the importance of the political science discipline and will narrow the diversity of funded political science research.  Thus,   we continue to believe that maintaining the political science program is very important for the future of the discipline; consequently, our position is that   the Political Science Program  should remain a part of NSF beyond the current  transitional year.