NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Half Of NSF Grant Money Wasted

August 9, 1999

Even defenders of the National Science Foundation -- an independent federal agency with an annual research-funding budget of $3 billion -- concede that half the money distributed in grants is wasted. About 50,000 scientists and engineers review some 30,000 grant proposals each year and select 19,000 to receive grants which can run into the millions of dollars. NSF provides about one-fourth of all federal support to academic institutions for basic research.

Some of its more questionable research projects include:

  • Nearly $32,000 to find out why a certain type of prepositional phrase is rarely found in Latin.
  • A $300,000 grant to a University of Nevada biochemist to study the mating habits of houseflies -- followed by a grant of $228,000 to study the regulation of pheromone production in a species of pine bark beetles.
  • A grant of $260,000 over three years to Cornell University to study egocentrism -- or how people think they are viewed by others.
  • Some $60,000 for research at Brigham Young University to determine why the women's suffrage movement was less successful in the West than in other parts of the country.

Somewhat more expensive was the $1 million grant to Morehouse College in Atlanta aimed at encouraging black undergraduates to go into doctoral programs in social science and public policy.

The foundation is requesting nearly $4 billion for fiscal 2000 -- $3 billion for research and related activities and $711 million for education. That amounts to an increase of 6 percent over current funding.

Source: Joyce Howard Price, "Even NSF's Allies Concede Many Projects Are Waste," Washington Times, August 8, 1999.


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