With no advance warning and no calls to her, Hillary Anger Elfenbein, an assistant professor of organizational behavior and industrial relations at UC-Berkeley’s business school, found her research being discussed on the House floor last week. Republican lawmakers wanted to bar the National Science Foundation from continuing a grant to support it. Why? They thought its title was, well, silly. Here's the scoop:
Rep. John Campbell, a California Republican, cited the budget deficit in going after the social science research, including Elfenbein’s work as well as studies on bison hunting and on sexual politics in Dakar.Nu? So what is this silly and questionable research project, you ask? It's an investigation of “Accuracy in the Cross-Cultural Understanding of Others’ Emotions.” And here's the best part: Elfenbein's research had recently been praised by Army officials as potentially providing insights that would be useful to U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Not only that, this kind of research can benefit American businesses.
“I am sure that some believe that these are very fine academic studies. That’s excellent. Within the realms of academic halls, they may think a number of things are fine academic studies. That’s not the question,” Campbell said on the House floor. “The question before us is, do these things rise to the standard of requiring expenditures of taxpayer funds in a time of deficits, proposed tax increases and raiding Social Security funds?”
But wait! Former psych professor-turned-representative to the rescue:
Leading the opposition to Campbell was Rep. Brian Baird, a Washington State Democrat who formerly was a psychology professor at Pacific Lutheran University. He stressed the role of peer review and the necessity of actually knowing about the research grants being discussed.Um, yes.