Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What Do You Get When You Cross a Jackass with a Weasel?

Graham's disdain for dissidents is on full display in today's New York Times. Before I get to that, I need to cover a little background.

In April of this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced a new Pentagon initiative to fund research into the social sciences and humanities which he dubbed Minerva (pdf) after the Greek god of war and wisdom.
The Minerva Research Initiative is a DoD-sponsored, university-based social science research program initiated by the Secretary of Defense.It focuses on areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security policy. It seeks to increase the Department’s intellectual capital in the social sciences and improve its ability to address future challenges and build bridges between the Department and the social science community. Minerva will bring together universities, research institutions, and individual scholars and support multidisciplinary and cross-institutional projects addressing specific topic areas determined by the Department.
Some scholars, while supporting the basic idea behind Minerva, were concerned that administrating the grants out of the Pentagon would could create conflicts of interest. To avoid this, they proposed that the money be distributed by traditional peer-review through the National Science Foundation, The National Institutes of Health, and The National Endowment of the Humanities. In particular, this is the position (pdf) of the American Anthropological Association.

Minerva was unveiled yesterday without the traditional peer-review for which scholars had hoped.

The NYTimes interviewed Graham, in his capacity of as Chair of the American Association of Universities, about this. Here Graham is in his full shove it mode.

In January Mr. Berdahl and a small group of senior scholars and university administrators met in Washington with Defense Department officials. Also there was Graham Spanier, the president of Penn State University and the association’s chairman. He said the scholars helped refine the guidelines, advising that the research be open and unclassified.

As for the issue of Pentagon financing, Mr. Spanier said, “Peer review is a good idea, but there are many different ways to do that.” He added, “We have pledged to go back and recommend individuals who could help in that process.”

“The beauty of Minerva,” Mr. Spanier said, “is that it provides a lot of opportunity for people in the social sciences and humanities to solve national-security-related questions.”

Mr. Berdahl said some participants favored having the National Science Foundation or a similar nonmilitary federal organization, rather than the Pentagon, distribute Minerva money. “It would be a good way to proceed, because they’ve had a lot of experience with social science,” he said.


To Mr. Spanier of Penn State, the answer to scholars who oppose Pentagon financing is simple: “Those who don’t want to do their research in the context of Department of Defense funding shouldn’t apply.”
This is classic Graham. He is carrying water for his buddy Bob Gates, just as he carried water for the RIAA. Penn Staters everywhere should be embarrassed that this man of minimal integrity is president of their university.

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