in Houston, Texas
Taxpayer-funded researchers bristle at criticism; see Texas Watchdog’s story on federal stimulus-funded research of weather on planet Venus
Wednesday, Aug 24, 2011, 11:52AM CST
By Mark Lisheron

It took a while, but the distress cries of research scientists criticized by politicians for wasting billions in taxpayer funds on questionable studies have reached the sympathetic ears of National Public Radio.

Researchers tell NPR studies that selectively and unfairly focus on elements of their work that might seem ridiculous to the public create a climate of suspicion that could threaten future funding.

The critical examination in question by the staff of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., alleges the National Science Foundation has squandered more than $3 billion on research that includes what the story says has become the catch-phrase for research waste, the shrimp on a treadmill.

It is worth reading the story for a description of the scientific ingenuity involved in the crustacean workout routine.

Although the study roasting the exercising shrimp on the barbie of public opinion is actually five months old, these criticisms apparently rankle.This, however, isn’t the first time Sen. Coburn has trained his ire on what he says is wasted taxpayer-paid research.

Coburn and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., teamed last August on Summertime Blues, a study of 100 research projects that in their opinion frittered away hundreds of millions of dollars of stimulus funds that created very few jobs.

Among the projects ridiculed were studies of weather on the planet Venus and a study of public perceptions of the stimulus that funded the study by two Texas researchers and reported on in some considerable detail by Texas Watchdog.

Taxpayers were on the hook for $492,499 for the two studies.

Coburn’s study says the National Science Foundation does good and necessary work. “While taxpayers support investing in science,” Coburn wrote in the study’s foreward, “most would likely question the merits of these projects.”
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Composite image of planet Venus by NASA.
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