Coburn report documents waste, questionable behavior at National Science Foundation

National Science Foundation funded dubious research and employees held Jell-O wrestling event, Coburn report says
BY CHRIS CASTEEL ccasteel@opubco.com Published: May 27, 2011
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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-standard approach to peer review of each of the more than 40,000 proposals it receives each year.

“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. Coburn's report.”

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