From: Kris Anderson <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, May 31, 2011 at 2:27 PM
Subject: Senator Recommends Elimination of NSF SBE Directorate
For your information...
FABBS Board and Member Society Presidents/Reps./Executive Directors:
Senator Coburn (R-OK) released the attached report that is highly
critical of NSF. Key findings include:
· NSF has an important mission and contributes to meaningful
scientific discovery, but there are pervasive problems at the agency.
· NSF lacks adequate oversight of its grant funding, which has
led to mismanagement, fraud, abuse and lack of knowledge regarding
· NSF is prone to extensive duplication within the agency and
across the federal government.
· NSF wastes millions of dollars on low-priority projects.
Recommendations include eliminating the Social, Behavioral, and
Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) (see page 54). This is based on a
review of almost 50 awards which are briefly described in the report
(other similar awards are included in the appendix).
My preliminary analysis of these awards indicates that they are funded
by every NSF Directorate except the Directorate for Geosciences. Over
20 awards were funded by SBE (the largest portion in political science,
but crossing the disciplines). Interestingly, at least 13 of these
awards were funded by the Directorate for Computer& Information
Science and Engineering (CISE).
While these reports do not always find traction in the media, Good
Morning America ran a story this morning:
The text of the story is below.
Within this context, the U.S. House is planning a hearing for June 2,
2011 on ?Social, Behavioral and Economic Science Research: Oversight of
the Need for Federal Investments and Priorities for Funding.? Myron
Gutmann, Assistant Director for NSF and head of the SBE Directorate,
will testify, among others.
A number of coalitions, scientific societies, and advocacy groups
(including FABBS) are working on the issue. We will keep in touch as
we learn more.
Please look for any Action Alerts from us. If you have not signed up to
receive them, please do so at:http://www.fabbs.org/news/sign-up/.
Paula R. Skedsvold, JD PhD
Federation of Associations in Behavioral& Brain Sciences (FABBS)
750 First Street, NE, Suite 905
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 336-5921
Fax: (202) 336-6183
Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn Report Shows Taxpayer Money Spent on Robots
That Fold Laundry, Shrimp on Treadmills
By JONATHAN KARL (@jonkarl) and MATTHEW JAFFE (@JaffeMatt) May 26, 2011
You've probably heard of shrimp on the barbie, but what about shrimp on
The National Science Foundation has, and it spent $500,000 of taxpayer
money researching it. It's not entirely clear what this research hoped
But it's one of a number of projects cited in a scathing new report
fromSen. Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, exclusively obtained
by ABC News.
It's not just shrimp on a treadmill. The foundation spent $1.5 million
to create a robot that can fold laundry. But before you try to buy one
to save some time, consider that it takes the robot 25 minutes to fold
a single towel.
The list goes on. Lots of people love to use FarmVille on Facebook, but
lots of people probably don't love the government's spending $300,000
in taxpayer money to study whether it helps build personal
"What it says to me is, they have too much money if they're going to
spend money on things like that," Coburn said in an interview.
But there's more.
The National Science Foundation has its headquarters in Arlington, Va.,
just across the river from Washington, D.C., a building it pays $19
million a year to rent. But now that the 20-year lease is nearly up, it
has decided that it is time to move; into a new building that will cost
$26 million annually to rent.
Even gelatin wrestling has been the subject of an agency project. In
Antarctica, no less. The foundation notes that the project is the work
of contractors, not agency employees.
Whatever the case might be, Coburn said, the situation is another
example that federal spending has gotten out of control.
"We have 12 different agencies doing pure research, and we're
duplicating and we're not sharing the information across and it's
siloed," he said.
In response to Coburn's report, the National Science Foundation
launched a vigorous defense of its projects. Agency officials said they
"have advanced the frontiers of science and engineering, improved
Americans' lives, and provided the foundations for countless new
industries and jobs."
And the facts back up that statement. One agency project helped lead to
the creation of Google, while another led to the invention of bar
Will the Robot Hoedown& Rodeo lead anywhere? Stay tuned, because it's
your taxpayer money that's paying for it.
ABC News' Auzzie Deen and Bret Hovell contributed to this report.
Department of Psychology
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University of Massachusetts
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