WASHINGTON — The federal agency in charge of funding scientific research spent $80,000 to study why the same college basketball teams tend to dominate March Madness, while staff members spent taxpayer money on romantic trips and held a Jell-O wrestling event at the South Pole, according to a report released Thursday by Sen. Tom Coburn.
The report also accuses the National Science Foundation of sitting on $1.7 billion in expired grant money and of not properly policing grant recipients.
“There is no question (the National Science Foundation) serves an important — and legitimate — purpose in our society and has contributed to scientific discovery,” he said.
“Unfortunately, in some ways, NSF has undermined its core mission through mismanagement and misplaced priorities.”
The foundation responded: “The National Science Foundation is renowned for its gold-
“The discoveries and innovations that have resulted from NSF-funded research have advanced the frontiers of science and engineering, improved Americans' lives and provided the foundations for countless new industries and jobs.
“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.
Indeed, some of the instances chronicled in the report — including the Jell-O wrestling and the case of a senior executive who viewed pornography on his computer for at least 331 days — were caught by the agency's inspector general.
The inspector general also investigated grant recipients and forced some to return federal money.
The National Science Foundation has an annual budget of nearly $7 billion and funds about 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by United States colleges and universities, according to the report.
Coburn, R-Muskogee, identifies $1.2 billion in what he says is waste, fraud, duplication and mismanagement.
Among the examples from the report: