Announcement Concerning Changes in the Political Science Program at the National Science Foundation

Earlier this year, the officers of the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences informed APSA staff and leadership that they are undertaking a restructuring of the Directorate’s longstanding Political Science Program. Currently, the plan is to replace the Political Science Program with two programs: “Security and Preparedness” and “Accountable Institutions and Behaviors.” These changes would be effective October 1, 2019.

We have made the NSF’s leadership aware that APSA’s leadership does not support these changes, in part out of concern that they may be misinterpreted as indicating a diminished commitment to political science research.  In response, the Directorate’s officers have assured us that both of the new programs will be headed by political scientists and will support a wide variety of political science research projects. It is our understanding that these new programs will likely be broadly inclusive of the varied types of political science work. The NSF officers also express optimism that total NSF funding for political science research will increase after these program modifications are made. They also indicate that the NSF will continue to fund Political Science Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grants.

Nevertheless, we remain concerned. Thus, we hope that NSF will continue to be open to thoughtful dialogue on this topic and to possibly delaying the implementation date in order to accommodate this dialogue. We are also working with our friends in Congress to identify ways for them to demonstrate support for  the value of political science research for society and the citizenry and to reafirm the importance of inclusivity and representation of the many forms and empirical topics that constitute the breadth and depth of our collective contributions.

Political and social science has been an essential part of the NSF’s work from the beginning, and formally recognized in the Agency’s mission for decades.  Given the rapidly changing political landscape around the world, it is more important than ever to advance scientific knowledge and understanding of our political institutions, norms, behaviors, and the notion of citizenship.

We invite our members to share their opinions with the APSA Council and staff as well as NSF officers:

  • NSF officials are hosting a panel at the 2019 annual meeting session entitled ‘Political Science at the NSFon Friday, August 30th, from 2pm – 3:30 in Marriott Wilson C . Numerous officers from the NSF, including head of the Directorate of Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) Sciences Arthur Lupia, Hal R. Varian Collegiate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan, will participate in the panel and discuss the future of political science at NSF and the reorganization of the directorate. We encourage all APSA Annual Meeting attendees to participate, schedule permitting.
  • Register your views on our intake form here. We will collect all comments and make them available for APSA Council and our membership. If you will not be able to attend the Annual Meeting, but have a question you would like to ask at the “Political Science at the NSF” panel, please submit it here.

In closing, we value your input and we want to hear from you regarding this important matter. Thus, we invite you to share your feedback and comments with us here.

Rogers Smith, University of Pennsylvania
President (2018-2019)

Paula McClain, Duke University
President-Elect (2018-2019)

Kathleen Thelen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Past-President (2018-2019)

Steven Rathgeb Smith
Executive Director