NSF, Political Science Research, and the Development of NOMINATE

In our first book on NOMINATE (Congress: A Political-Economic History of Roll Call Voting, 1997), one of the roll call votes used in the introductory chapter on the spatial model of voting was the Senate’s 1981 vote to restore NSF funding levels for social science research. The measure failed by a 22-77 vote (which we plot below using DW-NOMINATE). We also show the House’s May 9th vote to eliminate NSF funding of political science research.

Indeed, NSF support has been crucial to the birth and growth of NOMINATE, from the first paper on NOMINATE in 1983 to more recent developments such as Alpha NOMINATE and extensions like W-NOMINATE in R. The following NSF grants have funded the development of NOMINATE. In particular, advanced computing resources were needed during the infancy of NOMINATE to scale large numbers of legislators and roll call votes:

NSF Grants 1982 – 1988, 1998 – 2000, 2006 – 2008
Supercomputer Grants at the San Diego Center, 2005-2008
Supercomputer Grants at the Pittsburgh Center, 1988-1992
Supercomputer Grants at the John von Neumann Center, 1988-1990
Supercomputer Grants at Purdue University, 1985-1988

We believe that NOMINATE has provided some important public benefits; in particular, by raising awareness of growing levels of polarization in the political system. We first sounded the alarm about political polarization in our 1984 paper: “The Polarization of American Politics.”

For more discussion on the proposal to eliminate NSF funding of political science research, see here and a statement by eleven political science department chairs here.

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