Fermilab was designed by Robert Wilson, a physicist who made an impassioned plea for basic research in front of a Congressional committee (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

It’s been said many times. Curiosity-driven research with no immediate application or goal is what has primarily led to science’s greatest discoveries as well as our high standard of living. It is what has led to the ascendancy of American science during the twentieth century. If you want great discoveries to happen, the recipe is clear; get the best scientists together and leave them alone.

And yet politicians just don’t get it. In the latest incarnation of this ignorance, Representative Lamar Smith of Texas wants to tell the NSF how to fund research. And here’s a trivial and forgettable fact: Smith heads the House Committee on Science and Technology. It’s also worth noting that Smith had sponsored the egregious SOPA. Science Magazine has now reported on his lack of understanding of the history of science and technology:

“Science Insider has obtained a copy of the legislation, labeled “Discussion Draft” and dated 18 April, which has begun to circulate among members of Congress and science lobbyists. In effect, the proposed bill would force NSF to adopt three criteria in judging every grant. Specifically, the draft would require the NSF director to post on NSF’s website, prior to any award, a declaration that certifies the research is:

via The head of the House Committee on Science does not understand how science works | The Curious Wavefunction, Read Full Story, Scientific American Blog Network.