Washington, D.C. - The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded $5.7 million to a project at Columbia University that includes an emphasis on climate change games. One such taxpayer-funded game, called FutureCoast, involves “voicemails from the future” about various climate change scenarios. The project is described as a “creative and performative expression” that is “a playful (yet serious) way to change the dialog about climate change.”

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “The NSF has funded too many questionable grants at the expense of higher priority research in fields like engineering, mathematics, computer science and biology. For example, a game that focuses on people from the future leaving voicemails about climate change does not seem like the best use of limited taxpayer funds.  Four out of five NSF grants get rejected. Taxpayers would rather their money fund higher priorities, like interdisciplinary research to understand how the brain works or Quantum computers, which could be the next generation of fast computers. It is not the government's money; it is the people's money.”

The Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act sets a better course for taxpayer-funded research. The FIRST Act refocuses taxpayer investments on basic research the physical science and increases funding for those NSF directorates. These are the areas singled out by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine as the primary drivers of our economic future.

Recent forecasts suggest that China will overtake the U.S. in total R&D spending by 2022. China can already lay claim to the world’s fastest supercomputer, an area of long-standing U.S. dominance. And the World Bank reports that China’s high-tech exports are more than double those of the U.S. The FIRST Act prioritizes areas of science with the greatest potential to yield transformational new technologies, catalyze new industries and businesses as well as create millions of new jobs. The FIRST Act also increases transparency and accountability by requiring the NSF to issue summaries of how each grant contributes to the broad national interest.

Read more: Heritage blog: Climate Games