The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds about "twenty percent of all federally supported, non-medical basic research in the United States." It has a history of wasteful spending and political propaganda (recently subsidizing a climate change musical).
A recent report by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Ok) finds over $3 billion of wasted or duplicative grants, including:
• $80,000 study on why the same teams always dominate March Madness;NSF also gave almost $560,000 to test (see report page 35) how long sick shrimp could run on a treadmill. The scientists involved, of course, defended their work as critical to the common good.
• $315,000 study suggesting playing FarmVille on Facebook helps adults develop and maintain relationships;
• $1 million for an analysis of how quickly parents respond to trendy baby names;
• $50,000 to produce and publicize amateur songs about science, including a rap called "Money 4 Drugz," and a misleading song titled "Biogas is a Gas, Gas, Gas";
• $2 million to figure out that people who often post pictures on the internet from the same location at the same time are usually friends; and
• $581,000 on whether online dating site users are racist.
Granted, $3 billion is small change, given a $1.3 trillion Federal budget deficit last fiscal year. Yet, President Obama promised to cut "wasteful spending" that "we don't need." The NSF -- particularly its fuzzy Social, Behavioral, and Economics directorate -- seems like a good place to start.
I can't resist adding a picture of a shrimp-on-a-treadmill--perhaps he was running away from the "Barbie":
source: report at 35
(via Washington Post)