On 8 December 2009, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), along with co-sponsor Senator John McCain (R-AZ), released a report entitled “Stimulus Checkup: A closer look at 100 projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” The 55-page report takes aim at grants for arts and academic research projects, spending to boost tourism, improvements for leisure facilities, and administrative and advertising costs associated with the $787 billion stimulus package. Supersonic jets, toxic clean-up efforts, and several educator-training programs also come under fire.

Coburn, who began the year opposing funding for museums, zoos and aquaria, uses this document to continue the attack on biological and environmental research. Many of the 100 projects referenced in the report are for biological science or biological science-related research projects. These projects range from animal systems studies aimed at understanding alcohol and drug use, to climate change research, to projects intended to improve curation of science collections. Some of these projects criticized include:

  • A $1.57 million NSF grant to researchers studying plant fossils in Argentina in order to understand the region’s biodiversity;
  • A National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism grant for $390,000 to study risk factors of alcohol abuse in young adults;
  • A $95,000 NSF grant to the University of Massachusetts to use pollen grains from Iceland in order to assess environmental variation and answer questions about the intersecting roles of landscape change and farm production;
  • A $210,00 grant to the University of Hawaii to study memory and taste in honeybees, the findings of which are expected to improve honeybee health;
  • A NIH funded study on drinking and sexually-promiscuous behavior in female college students;
  • A $448,000 grant for a study measuring the affects of changing temperatures on wildflowers at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory;
  • A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant to protect wildlife and restore habitats along the Oregon coast by recovering crab pots, lines, and other marine debris;
  • An NSF award to Duke University to send students to study tropical ecology and ecotourism at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica as part of the successful Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) program;
  • NSF grants to the University of Arizona and Arizona State University to study ant colony fitness;
  • A $187,632 grant to Michigan State University to combat carpet beetles which are destroying the extensive national and international holdings in their insect collection; and,
  • An NSF-funded award to researchers studying behavioral dynamics of bird populations and how this behavior applies to sharing behavior in humans.

Coburn and McCain also took issue with the fact that 25,000 new government jobs were created in order to oversee and implement stimulus spending projects.


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