Two reports released in recent weeks by Republican policy makers point to hundreds of federally-funded activities they deem to be wasteful and unworthy of taxpayer support. Included in the reports are peer-reviewed research projects supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH). Sen. James Lankford’s (R-OK) Federal Fumbles claims to identify “100 ways the government dropped the ball,” poking fun at six NSF grants and two NIH grants, among dozens of other projects. A second report was released just last week by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Wastebook: The Farce Awakens. Flake’s report is said to be a continuation of retired Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) longtime efforts to bring public attention to wasteful federal spending. This report also identifies 100 projects, 16 funded by NSF and a handful from NIH.
NSF recently commented on the Federal Fumbles report, stating, “Each proposal submitted to NSF—including those deemed ‘wasteful’ and ‘out-of-touch’ in the ‘Federal Fumbles’ report—is reviewed by science and engineering experts well-versed in their particular discipline or field of expertise.” The NSF response goes on to explain the merit of each project called out in Lankford’s report, and cautions against using grant titles as the primary basis for understanding the merit of a project.
While not new, these efforts serve to misrepresent sound scientific research and belittle the work of respected scientists. COSSA and partners across the scientific community continue to object to this type of political interference into decision making around federal support for scientific research.