Saturday, June 04, 2011

Your Tax Dollars At Work, Part II

UPDATE: below

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;

• $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.
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.

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)


Obamawan Lownsharch said...

>>> Yet, President Obama promised to cut "wasteful spending" that "we don't need."

Whut, yu t'awt I wuz seeryus 'bout dat? C'maaaan. Fugeddaboutit.

Ay! AaaaYYYY! I mean it! Fugeddaboutit.

Don' MAKE me sen' Guido over dere.

Gringo said...

$581,000 on whether online dating site users are racist.

No idea, but I know a married black couple who met through such a site.

For a lot of these research examples, I would be of the opinion that the researcher could do it on his own with little or no money. IOW, the researcher is using the grant money to get paid to do research. If you are on soft money, I see no problem with that, but if you have a paid position, I do. After all, if you have a tenure-track position and a university expects you to do research, the university's salary is already paying you to do research.