Have you ever heard of a shrimp running on a treadmill? The National Science Foundation (NSF) has, and they’ve spent more than $500,000 researching it. Apparently healthy shrimp ran and swam at treadmill speeds of up to 66 feet per minute for hours without indication of fatigue. Wow!
The NSF also spent $1.5 million to create a robot that can fold laundry. Before you get too excited, it takes the robot 25 minutes to fold one towel.
The Senate’s top watchdog, Tom Coburn, R-Okla, says taxpayer dollars have funded these bizarre projects. He issued a new 73-page scathing report
in which he identified $3 billion in mismanagement at the NSF ranging from questionable studies to exorbitant operating costs.
In one instance, NSF employees at the Antarctic McMurdo station organized a Jell-O wrestling contest, which is part of a $451 million polar research project.
Coburn’s so-called ‘waste books
’ are part of a time-honored practice of politicians mocking government spending, and it provides ammunition for Republicans’ efforts to cut back domestic spending. It comes at a time when politicians are struggling to find ways to reduce the annual $1.5 trillion deficit. Many of Coburn’s previous waste books are accurate in their portrayal, but others misrepresent or omit key details, according to people with knowledge of these specific projects.
Coburn, a physician, also noted the important work the NSF has done by advances in cloud computing and magnetic resonance imaging. The NSF’s annual budget is $6.9 billion and funds approximately 20 percent of all federally-supported basic research conducted by colleges and universities.
The NSF report also found waste or duplication in programs including:
• $80,000 study on why the same teams always dominate March Madness;
• $315,000 study suggesting playing FarmVille on Facebook helps adults develop and maintain relationships;
• $1 million for an analysis of how quickly parents respond to trendy baby names;
• $50,000 to produce and publicize amateur songs about science, including a rap called “Money 4 Drugz,” and a misleading song titled “Biogas is a Gas, Gas, Gas”;
• $2 million to figure out that people who often post pictures on the internet from the same location at the same time are usually friends; and
• $581,000 on whether online dating site users are racist.