UPDATE: Archaeology and the NSF

As a follow up to my October 2 post regarding Eric Cantor and Lamar Smith’s USA Today op-ed on NSF funding for archaeological research, Rosemary Joyce, James Doyle, and I participated in a radio panel discussion of the issue on Joseph Schuldenrein’s VoiceAmerica program Indiana Jones: Myth, Reality, and 21st Century Archaeology.  It will be streamed on Wednesday November 13 at 6pm and then available by podcast two days later.

In addition, my colleague Sturt Manning has posted his reaction to the Cantor and Smith article.  Now that government websites are back up after the government shutdown, a couple useful statistics are available.

a. Does the US spend more on research and development than any other country? It depends.  According to the World Bank, in 2010 (the last comprehensive data set) we were 10th on a per capita basis, behind Israel, Finland, Sweden, Korea, Japan, and Denmark.

b. Nevertheless, measures of scientific productivity in the US contradict the notion of lost preeminence. As just one measure, the CWTS Leiden Ranking measures scientific performance of major global universities.  Of the Top 25, all but three are in the US.

c. The Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate represents 3.5% of the NSF’s $6.8 billion budget.  That amounts to about 0.000001% of our current national debt (based on yesterday’s figure).

d. Eric Cantor currently earns $193,400 in salary and his office spends another $510,375 in staff salary alone.  Lamar Smith earns $174,000 in salary and his office staff costs $403,983.  Taken together this is almost twice the expenditure of the archaeological research projects they flagged in their op-ed.

Of course I am not against paying our representatives in Congress.  But given budgetary constraints we must prioritize those who contribute directly to improving the quality of life of the American people.  For every $20,000 saved in Cantor and Smith’s salary, we can sponsor a Dissertation Improvement Grant in Archaeology that will lead directly to new knowledge.  This is not a matter of being anti-House Republicans, it is simply common sense.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *