Last week was a rough one for the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, after the release of two separate congressional reports drawing negative attention to the funding agencies.
On Aug. 3, U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and John McCain, R-Ariz., released a report entitled “Summertime Blues” that detailed 100 supposedly wasteful projects funded by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Included were four projects funded by the NIH and nine funded by the NSF, along with multiple other science-themed projects. The report is the third in a series of reports analyzing projects funded by the stimulus bill.
Then, on Aug. 6, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, citing an anonymous source, sent a letter to NSF officials complaining of illicit website viewing by employees at the agency. Calling the topic a “pervasive problem,” Grassley demanded accountability from the agency, reviving a 2009 inquiry into the issue.
Grassley’s concerns were brought to the fore in May, when House Republicans successfully attached a so-called “porn” amendment to the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act. The amendment denied any agency receiving funds from the bill, including the NSF, the ability to pay the salary of an employee who had been disciplined for viewing pornographic material while at work.