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Some government waste you probably never heard of

June 1, 2011

» Waste and Improper Behavior – Part of the Culture at NSF.

Missed my list post this week, so I am gonna work one in with a government waste slant.  Oh come on, its fun!

So this week, we are gonna talk about the National Science Foundation.  From Senator Tom Coburn’s report on the government agency, the only justified response will have to be a quote from Star Wars, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”  Checkout my list and you will agree:

  • A $315,000 NSF study suggests playing FarmVille on Facebook helps adults develop and maintain relationships.
  • Armed with a $1 million grant from the NSF, researchers at Indian University-Bloomington and New York University analyzed baby names to determine trends in parents’ naming decisions. Their conclusion: popular names are popular with parents.  [uhhh, no f**ing s**t!!!]
  • The National Science Foundation provided $50,000 for online music videos about science, including “Money 4 Drugz” and “Biogas is a Gas, Gas, Gas.”  Here are some lyrics for yo ass!:

Working in the lab is a pretty sweet gig / The people are smart and the toys are really big / But we can’t be chill when our homies are ill / So we write a new proposal to create another pill / If you have malaria we wanna take care o’ ya / And if we succeed then no one has to bury ya / And so we beg for grants, even though it’s so demeaning / ‘Cause you need a good stash for a high-throughput screening

Chorus: We need money for drugs / We ain’t no thugs / But it takes more funds / To kill more bugs (parasites yo!)

We start with expression of recombinant protein / A soluble product is a reason for emoting / We quantify its function and look for inhibitors / And find the delimiters of active-site perimeter

When the SAR is leaving us baffled / We call in the chemists to create a new scaffold / It’s not like making meth—it’s really hard to do it / But we’ve got to break through to a brand-new therapeutic  [we seriously need to stop with the whole nerdy white folks rapping routine, its tired, embarassing, and if I had to take a guess, probably serves as a recruitment tool for Islamic extremism]

  • Why do the same teams always dominate March Madness? A team of engineers and social scientists at Duke University teamed up to develop a “Constructal Theory on Social Dynamics.” They have been awarded a $79,998 grant from the National Science Foundation.  The research helped them conclude that being a top-notch college basketball program helps to attract blue-chip recruits. “The best players will tend to choose winning programs, and these programs send higher percentages of athletes to the NBA, which in turn attracts the best players.”  [again, no f**ing s**t!!!]
  • NSF has provided just over $2 million to researchers at Cornell University to produce a study concluding if people post pictures indicating they are often in the same place at the same time, they are probably friends or otherwise socially connected.  [uhhh, obviously?  orrrr….they are creepers]
  • NSF provided University of California—Berkeley researchers $580,819 to study racial preferences in online dating. The research was publicized by a UC Berkeley article, “In online dating, blacks are more open to romancing whites than vice versa.”  [the unstated conclusion…all people polled were complete losers]
  • Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University received an NSF grant to perform a study of tens of thousands of tweets. A “tweet” refers to a 140-character or less post on the popular social networking site known as “twitter.” The conclusion was that, “regional slang and dialects are as evident in tweets as they are in everyday conversations.”  [man, these guys are brilliant!]
  • Science Nation, the NSF online magazine recently featured a Duke University research project that evaluated the best times to purchase tickets to a sold-out sporting events. The article, “Ticket to Ride: When to buy or not to buy,” explains: “Trying to buy a ticket to a sold-out game? To get the cheapest price you have a decision to make: when to buy.”  To answer this question, the article highlighted Dr. Andrew Sweeting’s review of ticket prices on Dr. Sweeting received a $259,216 grant from NSF for his work.  [you get a feeling the uber-nerds at USF live a little vicariously through college sports?]
  • The National Science Foundation funded a $480,462 study that sought to answer the pressing question of whether a child’s gender predisposes them to prefer certain toys, or if socialization plays a role. Or, more simply, scientists studied if boys like trucks and girls like dolls.  [answering the age old question, “is your son gay?”…only if he leaves Barbie’s clothes on]
  • Researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were awarded a $604,755 grant in 2007 to “use virtual worlds as an exploratorium to…model the dynamics of group behavior.”  The grant explains, “The most important and complex decisions made by governments and organizations occur in group contexts.”172 The award summary specifically suggested EverQuest 2 as a way to study these important group decisions.  [okay, I call shennanigans on this one – these researchers just wanted an excuse to play Evercrack on the clock]

Okay, enough of the studies, what other sort of waste is going on at the prestigious National Science Foundation?  How about, porn.  Lots and lots of porn.  Seriously, a ridiculous amount of port, but seriously, they are dorks, is it that surprising?

Investigative news reports found that some employees at NSF were spending more time viewing pornography than doing their jobs.64 The porn viewing was so pervasive that the cases overwhelmed the agency’s IG and undermined the watchdog’s ability to investigate other misspent funds or fraudulent activities.
One senior executive spent at least 331 days looking at pornography on his government computer and chatting online with nude or partially clad women—costing the taxpayers between $13,800 and $58,000.66 When caught, the NSF official retired but defended himself by suggesting he visited the porn sites to provide a living to poor overseas women. The senior executive explained “that these young women are from poor countries and need to make money to help their parents and this site helps them do that.”

You gotta admit, that is one helluva excuse!

What else you got for us nerd-dogs?  Sexual liaisons on the taxpayer dime, sounds juicy:

A senior manager at NSF went on 47 trips in a two and a half year period with a direct subordinate, at a total cost of $144,152 in NSF funds. The couple extended their business trips and unnecessarily traveled together in order to further their relationship. According to the IG report, “neither the supervisor nor his subordinate disclosed the nature of their relationship to any of the ADs [Assistant Directors]—explaining to investigators that they believed that if the ADs had known about the relationship, trips would have been ‘squashed’ or ‘cancelled.’” The senior manager had a performance bonus taken away and both had performance reviews downgraded, but both remained at NSF.

NICE!  Didn’t even get fired, that is what I am talking about!

Here is another:

An NSF investigation uncovered inappropriate travel expenses by a NSF official “to facilitate his relationships with female companions, one of whom is an NSF employee.”
For a trip to San Diego, messages revealed that he planned his trip around a romantic fling. “Ordinarily I would fly out Sunday …. *m+y site visit in San Diego begins on Sunday 29th in late afternoon,” he explained. “I should be able to fly out a day earlier. … if you want to come down that evening, stay over and spend the morning by the ocean, we can make that work.”
The employee was also found to schedule speaking engagements based on potential romantic benefits. When asked by investigators if it was appropriate to consider a woman’s presence in Vancouver in deciding whether to accept an invitation to speak at a workshop there, he responded, “Yeah, why not?”
NSF did not fire the individual or reduce his pay. They did rescind “preliminary approval” for an award that would have provided him a $33,000 bonus, required him to return $1,215, prohibited him from engaging in any future NSF-funded international travel, and required approval by a superior for any NSF-funded domestic travel.

Okay, that’s enough of this silliness.  You should check out Senator Coburn’s report, it offers an amazing glimpse at the tip of the wasteful beauracratic iceberg that is our Federal Government.

I think the next study the NSF should commission should be titled, “Where does money come from? – An investigation into the mystery”.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2011 9:19 am

    God bless the National Science Foundation. And there are those cynics who say our tax dollars are wasted!

    • June 1, 2011 7:11 pm

      Yeah, I feel much better knowing these pervs and video game nerds are spending our money so wisely.

  2. June 1, 2011 9:25 am

    Is the shrimp still running on the treadmill? I am surprised PETA has not responded from that little study.

  3. June 1, 2011 10:17 am

    Great post, Colin. What scares me is this investigation is on just one of hundreds of agency. I have to believe we would find similar waste at every one of them. It’s time to flush the toilette.

    • June 1, 2011 7:13 pm

      Ohh, absolutely we would. Other people’s money is irrelevant to the mindset of a government stoolie. Its all a big game.

  4. June 1, 2011 11:18 am

    Great post!
    Unfortunately, for professors in American colleges it’s “publish or perish”. Instead of spending 50% of their time on wasteful “research” which they themselves resent, they should just teach.

    • June 1, 2011 7:14 pm

      But hasn’t teaching become secondary in all levels of American education? Its all about values, and self-esteem, and graduation ceremonies for third-graders.

  5. Adrian Bejan permalink
    June 1, 2011 5:30 pm

    You have been fooled.

    What Sen. Coburn wrote about my work is a total fabrication. I never had NSF funding to study basketball. The research paper that was in the news ( in March 2011) was a student term-paper, written during an evolutionary design course that I teach. It cost exactly ZERO dollars.

    Sen. Coburn’s voluminous and well paid staff never contacted me to ask why the press was writing about our research on natural (rigid) hierarchy, with basketball rankings as one of several examples. So, who is not spending our taxpayers’ money wisely?

    I offer this advice to my students and readers : do your research before you write.

    Adrian Bejan
    J. A. Jones Distinguished Professor
    Duke University

    • June 1, 2011 7:32 pm

      So, who is not spending our taxpayers’ money wisely?

      Hmm, do I only have two choices? A politician or a self-serving professor? Since I don’t play the straw-man game, I will opt for choice number three? All of the above.

      Or…just you and your fellow “researchers”.

      I understand the desire to defend yourself, and to take a little bit of your argument and use it for myself, your study is only one of MANY examples of waste, fraud and abuse at the NSF. If, as you say, your study was not wasteful (as if you would admit otherwise), that does not mean Coburn’s report was inaccurate in toto.

      So, assuming Coburn hasn’t “fooled” me completely and lied about every instance of waste, fraud and abuse at the NSF, then the only choice in who wastes taxpayer money is “researchers” seeking taxpayer money for their bogus studies. Because, if such blatant waste did not exist, then one would presume Coburn would have nothing to look for?

      Considering the grant you received totaling $79,988 of other people’s money (you know how taxation works right?) allowed you to presumably further your career and prestige by being published in three separate journals, can you explain the benefits your research under this grant have to our society? In laymen’s terms please. Ohh, and briefly…turgidity is frowned upon.

      And lastly, I would do my own research but I haven’t found anyone willing to give me a 80k to write about hacks who waste other people’s money. So, barring that, and a free subscription to the International Journal of Design & Nature, I will have to rely on what the government tells me. Hmm, not much upside to all this is there? =(

      • JustFacts permalink
        June 1, 2011 9:18 pm

        Typical liberal response. If one part of it is questionable it all is, unless it is some research “they” agree with. Like anthropogenic global warming. With his logic, I guess this professor must agree that the IPCC report must be totally debunked, because we have since found that at least four areas of concern were rigged or taken from magazine articles and published as peer-reviewed studies. Of course he won’t because he “believes” in AGW.

  6. June 2, 2011 5:42 am

    And they can’t find anything in the budget to cut?

  7. June 2, 2011 9:39 pm

    Are you kidding? We cannot cut this vital service to the people. I’m going to write a proposal to study if Weebles fall down when they wobble. Don’t you dare interfere with my gravy train!

  8. June 4, 2011 10:50 am


    I think I’m going to have to double my blood-pressure meds!

  9. KingShamus permalink
    June 11, 2011 11:27 am

    I hereby propose we defund the NSF immediately.

    I’m gangsta like that.


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