The report, issued earlier this month by the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, features how the National Science Foundation, the government's primary distributor of scientific grants, has vastly extended the use of "highly politicized terms" in grant abstracts.
"The frequency of documents containing highly politicized terms has been increasing consistently over the last three decades," the report says. "As of 2020, 30.4% of all grants had one of the following politicized terms: 'equity,' 'diversity,' 'inclusion,' 'gender,' 'marginalize,' 'underrepresented,' or 'disparity.' This is up from 2.9% in 1990."
While all academic disciplines have seen an abundant development in using the terms mentioned above in grant abstracts, certain ones saw a much more significant increase than others.
Education and human resources increased from a minuscule 4.3% in 1990 to a whopping 53.8% in 2020, while math and physical science increased from 0.9% to 22.6%.
The study was conducted by Leif Rasmussen, a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at Northwestern University, who said he started looking into the issue while investigating how to write a grant proposal for himself.
"I started looking through the archives of NSF grant proposals for work that was kind of similar to mine," Rasmussen said. "And then I just got kind of curious about the frequency of usage of a lot of this diversity, equity, and inclusion terms and if it's increasing."
Rasmussen said the increase of diversity, equity, and inclusion terminology could "potentially be filtering out" conservative applicants for NSF grants, as they are less likely to want to use such terminology. "It serves to kind of filter people out, it seems like kind of a political litmus test built into this funding for science," he said. "This is some positive evidence... that the NSF is getting politicized."
The report also reveals that in the last 30 years, grant abstracts have become increasingly similar, regardless of the academic discipline they are funding.
"This arguably shows that there is less diversity in the kinds of ideas that are getting funded," the report says. "This effect is particularly strong in the last few years, but the trend is clear over the last three decades when a technique based on word similarity, rather than the matching of exact terms, is used."
"Taken together," the report continues, "the results imply that there has been a politicization of scientific funding in the US in recent years and a decrease in the diversity of ideas supported, indicating a possible decline in the quality of research and the potential for decreased trust towards scientific institutions among the general public."