John Paul Jones III, dean of the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Brint Milward, director of the UA School of Government and Public Policy, visited Washington D.C. this month to press home the importance of political science funding from federal agencies, especially the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense.
The visit, arranged by the UA Office of Federal Relations, was in direct response to Congressional actions to eliminate funding for political science research at NSF. The timing was optimal – Milward also had been selected to be the July presenter for the UA President’s Distinguished Speaker Series, a Washington D.C. program presented by the UA President’s Office, Federal Relations, the UA Alumni Association and the CapitolCats alumni chapter in Washington, D.C.
Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to eliminate political science research funding in the U.S. House’s version of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill. The bill, sponsored by Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake, passed the House after a previous amendment offered by the congressman to cut $1.2 billion from the National Science Foundation budget failed.
Jones and Milward felt strongly that members of Congress needed to understand the ways that social and political science research benefits society. The UA delegation met with several congressional offices, including Congressman Ron Barber, Senate Armed Services Committee staff and staff for Flake and Pastor. They also met with the program manager for the MINERVA program, a Department of Defense program that funds social science research for defense applications.
“Social and political science research answers fundamental questions about our society,” Jones said in the meetings. “NSF funding has supported studies on elections, foreign policy, terrorism, the reintegration of U.S soldiers, health care, the impact of disasters on our communities – topics that are not only important to policymakers, but also to our communities. We can’t afford not to support such programs.”
Milward, who noted that it was a political scientist, Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2009 by, as the Nobel Committee stated, “showing how common resources – forests, fisheries, oil fields or grazing lands, can be managed successfully by the people who use them, rather than by governments or private companies." Ostrom's work in this regard challenged conventional wisdom, showing that common resources can be successfully managed without government regulation or privatization. Ostrom’s research program demonstrated that social science research can be fundamental but ultimately very practical as her work helped policymakers all over the world understand that you can successfully manage critical natural resources in a decentralized and democratic way.
“The very definition of fundamental research means you can’t know the results or impacts of the research,” said Milward. “But time and time again, research discoveries have greatly benefited Americans.”
Milward’s message echoes those of Leslie Tolbert, the UA’s senior vice president for research, who recently addressed the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science and Technology about the value of research universities and basic research.
After a full day of meetings on Capitol Hill, Milward presented the UA President’s Distinguished Lecture titled “Two Threats to Democracy: Terrorist Networks and Political Incivility.” He explained his work on “dark networks” – terror-related organizations, their social dynamics and the practicalities of how to impact such groups. He also discussed the issue of political incivility, its deleterious impact on our political culture and recent developments at the UA’s National Institute for Civil Discourse, including the hiring of its new executive director, Carolyn Lukensmeyer. Milward, who played a critical role in the founding of the institute, welcomed her as a “dynamic leader” whose accomplishments in the area are “unparalleled.”
According to Shay Stautz, the UA associate vice president of federal relations, the trip was beneficial.
“It’s a full day, engaging the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. Government, as well as our alumni and foundation friends in the D.C. area,” said Stautz. “Dean Jones and Director Milward did a superb job of advocating on behalf of the University and the research community.”