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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 Published: May 27, 2011
/articleid/3571534/1/pictures/1427948">Photo - Sen. Tom Coburn is seen in this AP photo.
Sen. Tom Coburn is seen in this AP photo.

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:

$80,000 at Duke University on why the same teams tend to dominate March Madness.

$315,000 at Michigan State University about how playing FarmVille on Facebook helps adults develop and maintain relationships.

$1 million on trendy baby names at Indiana University and New York University.

Grants totaling $1.4 million for Carnegie Mellon University to study regional slang on Twitter.

$581,000 at the University of California at Berkeley on racial preferences in online dating.


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