President Obama speaks at the National Academy of Sciences on April 29.(Photo: National Academy of Sciences)
Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON -- President Obama defended social sciences, such as anthropology and political science, against political attacks in a speech before the nation's most prestigious scientific body on Monday.
Obama returned to the National Academy of Sciences to give the speech, where he had called for greater investment in research and development by government and industry in 2009.
Amid some light moments - he jokingly called for first daughters Sasha and Mahlia to complete their math homework - Obama spoke of the need to "promote the integrity of the scientific process" in Washington budget debates. He singled out social science, the study of human nature and society, as deserving support along with medical and physical sciences. "In all of the sciences, we have to make sure we are supporting the idea that they are not subject to politics, that they are not skewed by an agenda."
In February, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., had called for cutting National Science Foundation funding for social science, saying the money would be better spent on disease research. And earlier this month, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., added an amendment to a federal spending law that removed NSF funding for political science research from its budget, except in studies deemed important for national security. Coburn said the restriction would "better focus scarce basic research dollars on the important scientific endeavors."