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Social science under siege

US social and behavioural scientists have learnt to live with populist legislators’ ill will. This time the lawmakers mean business. Rebecca Trager reports.

Social scientists are taking up arms against a growing threat from Capitol Hill. They are trying to halt legislation to cut social and behavioural research programmes across federal agencies or eliminate individual peer-reviewed grants in those fields.

Lawmakers have questioned government support for the so-called ‘soft’ sciences for decades. Specific projects with trivial titles have been ridiculed before, but the attacks never amounted to much. Now, amid dismal fiscal circumstances, an assault on the National Science Foundation’s Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate is gaining real momentum in Congress.

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