Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jell-O For Thought -- “The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope”

Tax dollars fund shrimp on treadmills, Jell-O wrestling in Antarctica

Report says federal research agency mismanaged $3 billion

[Reader Note:  During a break from strenuous efforts to make money during the current Depression today, I came across the following article.  

I thought of bolding or italicizing the most shocking/funniest sections, but it's a short piece.  

Read it and weep.  It's simply unbelievable.]


Jell-O wrestling at the South Pole is one of the projects detailed in the Senate report “The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope.”

        The Senate's top watchdog on government waste, in a new report Thursday, said taxpayer money has gone to fund such programs as Jell-O wrestling at the South Pole, testing shrimp's exercise ability on a treadmill and a laundry-folding robot, all funded by the National Science Foundation.

        Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, said he identified more than $3 billion in mismanagement at NSF, ranging from questionable studies to exorbitant operating costs, and in some cases duplication by the science agency of operations performed by other agencies.

        At a time when the federal government is struggling with record deficits and bumping up against its borrowing limit, Mr. Coburn said the agency is a prime example of the kinds of spending taxpayers should no longer tolerate.

       "There is little, if any, obvious scientific benefit to some NSF projects, such as a YouTube rap video, a review of event ticket prices on, a 'robot hoedown and rodeo,' or a virtual recreation of the 1964/65 New York World's Fair," Mr. Coburn said in a letter to taxpayers he wrote introducing the 73-page report, documented by more than 350 footnotes.

         In one instance NSF employees, in their spare time, engaged in a Jell-O wrestling contest at the agency's McMurdo research station at the South Pole. 

                In another case, the agency paid $559,681 to test sick shrimp's metabolism, which one researcher said was "the first time that shrimp have been exercised on a treadmill."

        Mr. Coburn's report noted that the researchers found sick shrimp "did not perform as well and did not recover as well from exercise as healthy shrimp."

        An NSF spokeswoman said agency officials have a "gold-standard approach to peer review" for the projects they spend money on.

       "While no agency is without flaws, NSF has been diligent about addressing concerns from members of Congress about workforce and grant management issues, and NSF's excellent record of tracking down waste and prosecuting wrongdoing is apparent from Sen. Coburn's report," said Dana Topousis, the spokeswoman. 

        "We believe that no other funding agency in the world comes close to NSF for giving taxpayers the best return on their investment."

         Mr. Coburn's report makes clear that the agency itself cracked down on some of the problems, including firing the organizer of the South Pole Jell-O wrestling event.

         In a letter after his dismissal, the dismissed employee complained of "fun nazis" who had clamped down on him.

        The agency has an annual budget of $6.9 billion, and accounts for about one-fifth of all national taxpayer-funded research at colleges and universities.

        Mr. Coburn, in his report, said audits of NSF show it regularly fails to meet management goals. One 2005 audit found almost half of the reports the agency is required to file were submitted either late or not at all.

© Copyright 2011 The Washington Times


  1. Nice, biased summary of an already biased report. Did you even read the parts at the end about the NSF? Coburn has been trying to get rid of them for years, but they are one of the ONLY agencies in the US devoted to funding basic research that helps us understand the planet. Every organization has bad apples (yes, EVEN THE SENATE), and you'll notice all of the offenders at the NSF were fired and fined (UNLIKE THE SENATE).

  2. Dear Anonymous: Don't you just love anonymous postings? One of the glories of the Gutless Territory of the Internet World. Don't get too exercised. I don't recall anything in what I wrote placing the US Senate or any senators on any kind of pedestal. $3 billion is a lot of money, both on an absolute # and a % of NSF budget basis. What was it that General Buck Turgidson said in Dr. Strangelove? "Sir, I hardly think it's fair to condemn an entire program over a single slip-up." Sad joke, don't you think? Curtis Roberts