Elizabeth Warren defends social sciences, pledges support for federal research funding

Warren, former NSF grantee, spoke to COSSA Colloquium.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaking at the 2013 Colloquium of the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) in Washington D.C. on Nov. 4, chided unnamed members of Congress for attacks on the behavioral and social sciences, and made clear she understands how critical these sciences are in undergirding sound policy.  

“Social science research is a compass for policymakers,” she told the nearly 200 scientists and science policy experts in the audience. “It points us in the right direction.” She warned that restricting the ability of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund the full range of social sciences “will threaten the ability of Congress to make good decisions by cutting off the pipeline of rigorous analysis to identify what policies work and what policies don’t work.” 

Sen. Warren told the Boston Chamber of Commerce last month that she supports doubling the U.S. investment in scientific and biomedical research in order to “create more year-to-year certainty for that funding.” Additional funding and the ability to plan long-term are important so that policymakers can make good choices “that will actually solve problems.” Otherwise, she said, “we’re doing some very expensive guessing.” 

Speaking of her willingness to be an advocate for research in the social sciences, Sen. Warren said at the COSSA Colloquium, “I want to take this on… partly to pay back the investments made in me when I was a young scholar.” While a member of the law faculty at the University of Texas in 1983, Warren and two colleagues received a grant of $110,000 from NSF’s Division of Social and Economic Sciences to study why people go into bankruptcy. Their work led to an influential book, "As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America." Sen. Warren is believed to be the only member of the Senate who is a former NSF grantee. 

For more information contact Heather O’Beirne Kelly.