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I have mentioned these difficulties to underscore the fact that knowledge to inform important social policies does not come easily or cheaply; but I am here to tell you that we are making progress, and that significant methodological advances have been made in recent years. Social scientists and statisticians, often working together, have developed mathematical and computation methods and applied a growing range of new design and analytical techniques for studies.
This work has benefited from similar efforts in the fields of biology and medicine, and from basic research and methods development in the social sciences more generally. Principles of analysis developed in studies such as the national halothane study, which assessed the safety of various anesthetics employed in surgery, can be applied to evaluating the impact of various social programs.
My colleagues and I, working on this study, the national halothane study, employed a variety of new analytical approaches, and as a result of that work, we realized that the social sciences needed a substantial body of statistics in this area and our project produced a book on what are called log-linear methods so that the techniques are now widely available.
These techniques are currently being utilized and adapted to the analysis of experimental data from the intervention studies I have mentioned. In addition, just as results from the halothane study revealed the importance of identifying and understanding interhospital differences, so programs such as the income maintenance experiments must come to understand how payment programs may operate differently in different geographical locations.
I should like now to mention some of the newer techniques which are just coming into wide usage. They are general methods for use in all Science, not just for program evaluation. Every substantial set of data has special quirks in it and one problem for the data analyst is to get the data to reveal what is basic about the set and to skip over what is only a wild or unusual value.
We have, over the last decade, developed systematic methods for what is called exploratory data analysis. These methods tend to be flexible, resistant, and robust. They are flexible because they can tackle all sorts of data and be responsive to many kinds of questions, resistant because they are not much affected by a few wild values, and robust because they get nearly all the information out of the data even when the usual theoretical asumptions fail.
The National Science Foundation has supported the development and exposition of these methods. To obtain the robustness-efficiency, properties, we have to use methods that require special high-speed computations. I am pleased to report that David Hoaglin and Paul Velleman have just submitted to the printer a volume of special computer programs to assist in making these important new methods widely available.
Looking now in another direction, I have for some time been concerned about the improvement of statistics for public policy. Both legislators and agency heads often say that they need better statistics than they are being supplied in order to carry out their business properly.
They understand, of course, that brand new questions often require brand new data. What they wish are data more relevant to their problems once the problem has been identified. These more relevant data are to help with the design of legislation or with the execution of the program.
This complaint about lack of relevance arises so often that I have concluded that what is needed in government statistics is a sequence of studies that joins the statistical experts with legislators and agency heads through social science researchers so that we can learn more clearly what should be provided.
I note that policymakers are not in this instance asking for better or more accurate statistics, but rather more relevant statistics. We need to study this matter and see whether it is possible to provide more relevant numbers. To do this will require us to see how and when statistics are used by our policymakers. Finding this out might well be a profitable cooperative venture that will require its own research methods and may lead to considerably improved government statistics.
Now to summarize, National Science Foundation funding has been most important in developing new research methods for social science and economics and it will continue to be important as we try to improve their ability to contribute in the future.
Thank you. Let me express again my appreciation for this opportunity to testify.
Mr. Brown. Thank you very much, Dr. Mosteller.
Both of you gentlemen touched upon areas which seem to me to hold a great deal of significance for the future of social science research. You mentioned the boiler investigation, Dr. Prewitt, and you focused a little bit on evaluations research, Dr. Mosteller.
The boiler case is very well known around here and it is sometimes given as the first example of a technology assessment program. One of the things that we are learning as we move rather tentatively into technology assessment, which we have been doing now for 5 or 6 years, is that successful technology assessment can't be done without a lot of social science research. That is, it involves understanding impacts on human beings of various results of a hypothesized technological development.
It means you have to create scenarios and then evaluate them extensively in terms of human reaction. I don't think we have developed a systematic theory for doing that. It seems to me to be an area in which we probably ought to.
Likewise, the evaluation research that you mentioned has sort of crept up on us, as you say, in the last few years. I suspect that we haven't yet appreciated the extent to which this can help us in a policy way. Essentially, almost everything we do could be treated as à research project and could be evaluated systematically and yet, we don't.
Take the problem of political alienation, for example. I think it's highly likely that we are creating a system which, in itself, generates political alienation and yet, we don't have the systematic analytical social science studies to determine that.
I blame all of you for that. [Laughter.]
Mr. Brown. But, to do that kind of broad-gaged research, you have to look at the social science research needs in a rather broad framework. I sense that this is one of the problems that we have within the science. I can understand the reasons for it. I'm not trying to criticize the Foundation for having not solved all of that problem.
But I think it's something that we all need to give considerably more thought to.
This question arises, with regard to the evaluations research, Dr. Mosteller: Is it a legitimate role for the National Science Foundation to include a function of encouraging mission agencies to design their programs in such a way as to include a structured evaluation research component aimed at both basic and applied results? That is, improving the processes of both basic and applied research in the social science area. Would this be a way of accelerating progress in the social sciences? Would it be a legitimate thing to originate with the National Science Foundation ?
Dr. MOSTELLER. Well, I think there are some aspects of that process which are legitimate for the National Science Foundation. For example, I think it reasonable that they might well provide information to mission agencies about methods and techniques and the ability of these methods to cope and the necessity for these methods to cope with the problems that the agencies are about to tackle.
Now, to give an illustration of something that does not interfere with the political progress, we have a small project within our own National Science Foundation project at Harvard which is trying to write up a story about the various methods of gathering data because legislators, political scientists and agency heads just really don't have time to learn very much about it.
They certainly don't want to know the details. So, we have been preparing a document that explains what the 12 or 13 standard methods of gathering data are, what their strengths and weaknesses are. It also indicates how such persons, decisionmakers and program managers, can learn to converse with the experts, the people who will propose to do studies or with people who have prepared studies, to try to give managers a chance to ask good questions and then perhaps get a feeling about the value of the proposed piece of research or the data gathering for their own purpose.
So, this seems to me to be an example of a way that the Foundation can make a contribution. I can't imagine the Foundation making rules, but I can imagine them making guidelines or making checklists that would be of considerable value to mission agencies and I think over the long haul, such contributions would be appreciated even though in the short run, they might look as if they were constraining.
Mr. Brown. Thank you very much, Dr. Mosteller. I'd like to acknowledge Mr. John Wydler, the ranking minority member of the full committee an I'm willing to yield all the rest of the time until 4 p.m. to him. [Laughter.]
Mr. WYDLER. I will use it to thank you. I have no questions. I'm sorry I was so late. I just couldn't get here earlier. I'm sorry I missed the testimony, but I'm going to take it with me and try to read it. I know this particular area of the social sciences is the one that has caused us the most difficulty with the budget of the National Science Foundation because you are trespassing on areas which are of great concern to a lot of people who aren't particularly interested in science as such, people that are interested in the behavior patterns of individuals, including their children.
So, I will only caution those of you who are working in this field, for the good of the field, to try and keep your scientific studies scientific and try to keep them out of—keep away from telling people how they should act, behave, or what they should do with their lives because it will only create problems for those of us who have to approve your budget. I give that with a kind feeling of advice.
But, I think in some cases, those who have been in charge of these programs have exceeded the jurisdiction that the Congress intended to give to you in undertaking some of your programs. I'm trying to be vague enough so I don't say anything too offensive, but clear enough so that you will act on what I'm saying.
It might have some effect.
We have spent a full day on this hearing, recognizing the sensitivity of it.
Without objection, at this point I would like to insert a statement provided by Congressman John Ashbrook for today's hearing.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN M. ASHBROOK, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE
STATE OF OHIO
Mr. Chairman, I thank you for this opportunity to discuss a number of deep concerns I have about the current funding and direction of the Biological, Behavioral, and Social Science grants of the National Science Foundation. As you know I have been a critic of the NSF for some time now. During my years in Congress I have watched as the NSF has grown into an ever larger item in the massive Federal Budget. Each year that the NSF expanded I offered amendments to slow the growth of what I considered unwise federal spending. In 1979 a majority of my colleagues in the House agreed with my view of the NSF and an amendment cutting $14 million from the Foundation passed 219–174.
Unfortunately most of the money cut in the House of Representatives was restored in a House-Senate conference. Considering how some of that restored money was spent in fiscal year 1980 those of my colleagues who supported the restoration of funds might have second thoughts. In a few weeks the House will once again have a chance to consider the NSF budget. Once again I will provide a suitable vehicle to stimulate discussion of current NSF funding levels. I can assure you that the amendments I offer to the NSF authorization are based upon what I consider a need for open discussion on the floor of the House and is not a reflection of any inadequacy by this committee or its chairman to conduct necessary oversight reviews. However, I do feel that when taxpayer's funds are involved in assisting dubious programs a record must be established at each level of consideration.
For the benefit of the Committee and the witnesses who have testified I would like to enumerate the concerns I have about the BBSS functions of the NSF grants. For each of my concerns I will cite examples from the 1979 grants announcements as well as refer to some of the grants I have cited in the past. I think the record will show that if anything the cuts I have proposed over the years are rather moderate in light of the wealth of evidence concerning wasteful spending by the NSF.
DUPLICATION OF ACADEMIC WORK A common defense used to justify NSF funding is that the level of academic research in America would greviously suffer if funding were cutback or eliminated. The assumption is that while the growth of knowledge is vital to a nation and a society, there is insufficient incentive or available funds in the private sector to meet the demands of contemporary research. My first observation would be that if the Federal Government did not take as much money as it does from the private sector to fund its own programs there might be more disposable income available to have citizens contribute to foundations or institutions of higher learning. However, barring a major awakening of the Congress and the bureaucracy, the assumption must be that the current level of robbery by taxation and government borrowing will continue at near the present rates. Under these conditions can research find funding if the NSF does not expand its grants?
In the summer of 1979 I took a random listing of NSF grants to the Library of Congress to see if any research had been conducted in the areas the NSF was funding. I wanted to see if, aside from popular literature and textbooks, these was academic activity going on outside of that funded by the NSF. In all six cases I found knowledge had been expanded without NSF help. In some cases a virtual avalanche of work had been conducted on the very same topics or topics that were closely related. On March 27, 1979 the NSF had spent $30,759 for a book on women scientists in the U.S. from 1830–1980. The Library of Congress found no less than 82 books and articles on this subject dating back to 1970. While any new work will provide additional insights and updates on a given subject, the average of over eight new works a year proves that there is sufficient interest in women scientists to end the need for taxpayer funding of a particular researcher.
Another example I found in the summer study was a $47,766 grant to the Center for Research on Women to study “how employed wives' high role demands in the family and paid work combined may negatively affect the adjustment of employed wives and their husbands”. My first reaction to this grant was that it was an unwarranted initiative into the American home. I will discuss this aspect under another issue area. The Library found 90 works on this subject in just the last three years. Further, a House Committee was concerned enough about the general issue of working wives that it compiled a 181 page annotated bibliography on the issue. Within those many pages were countless references to the issue funded by NSF. This surprised me as the grant justification stated that this subject had been given "too little objective, basic social science research attention”. Aside from wondering how objective anything called the “Center for Research on Women" could be on this subject I fail to see how 90 academic works and a 181 page bibliography proves lack of interest in the subject.
Since the bibliographic searches of the summer I have found a number of other possible duplications of NSF grants with existing work. These include a $45,253 grant on the "Impact of State Public Campaign Finance Policies" which was granted only a month before the American Enterprise Institute published a 384 page compendium of papers on “Parties, Interest Groups, and Campaign Finance Laws". The book covers all aspects of federal and state campaign finance policies and is the product of a two day conference on this issue which involved over 27 major participants. Another example is a $24,759 grant to study the "Changing Structure of Agriculture” issued on January 30, 1980 within a week of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's publication of a major work on the changing structure of American agriculture. These cases, and others, show that the NSF is funding areas where I find an intellectual vitality sufficient to fuel adequate expansion of knowledge without government assistance, or where other government agencies may already be involved.
In my recent research I have found another aspect of NSF duplication that is particularly disturbing. This is the phenomenon of seeing the NSF fund similar projects that are also similar to privately funded projects. So the NSF is not only duplicating the private sector, it is duplicating itself. One example of this was a series of three grants issued in August of 1979. The three grants all deal with aspects of committee decision-making, an area well covered in management science, psychology, and political science. Yet, in one month, there was a $97,878 grant to study “Decision Making in Legislative Committees”, then a $95,117 grant to study “Decision Making Under Majority Rule_Game Theoretic and Laboratory Studies of Committees", and then $70,299 to study "Group Decision Making and Problem Solving." I recognize that these studies each approach the topic differently, and probably use different pools of empirical evidence upon which to draw conclusions. However, does the American taxpayer really need to spend $263,294 for three similar studies in the same month on an issue already covered in several academic disciplines? This is an expensive luxury most taxpayers are willing to forego.
THE SERIOUSNESS OF ABSURDITY
The fantastic range of NSF grants in the name of searching for knowledge is legend in America. Through the Golden Fleece Awards of Senator Proxmire and the "goofy grants" featured in such diverse publications as National Equirer and National Review the NSF has had its share of public ridicule for its many bizarre expenditures of funds. The important point that is sometimes missed amid the chuckles and guffaws is that the NSF does fund a number of projects that are dubious at best. These projects may sometimes have funny sounding tongue