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Accountability of the Scientific Stimulus Funding 242

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the we-blew-it-on-bubblegum dept.
eldavojohn writes "A blog tipped me off to a government site that allows me to see where my tax dollars went when the nebulous 'scientific stimulus' was granted. You might be able to find this information in a bill, but you can click on your state in this interactive site to see what has happened locally to you. Perhaps it's a sign of more government transparency in regards to spending or just more propaganda."
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Accountability of the Scientific Stimulus Funding

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  • by AudioInfecktion (1088677) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @12:08PM (#30144684)
    Exclusive: Jobs 'Saved or Created' in Congressional Districts That Don't Exist http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/jobs-saved-created-congressional-districts-exist/story?id=9097853 [go.com]
      • I think we should be buying lawnmowers for all the graveyards, since each lawnmower will create 50 jobs.

      • by DaHat (247651) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @12:39PM (#30145140) Homepage

        Such a convenient excuse (if true)... but still doesn't explain all of the fake jobs 'created or saved' in New Hampshire [hotair.com], Florida and Georgia [hotair.com], Ohio [hotair.com], Wisconsin [hotair.com], New Jersey [google.com], Virginia [nypost.com], Texas [dallasnews.com], Illinois [chicagotribune.com], Colorado [hotair.com], Washington [hotair.com], Massachusetts [hotair.com], Arkansas [hotair.com], Connecticut [clickability.com], or Michigan [hotair.com].

        Given the scope of the fakery going on... there are two options... even more errors, or a deliberate attempt to cook the books.

        Giving the amazing failure of the stimulus... the latter is far more likely given the continued delusional claims that it saved us from the brink... instead it is setting us up for a double dip and massive inflation.

        • by mweather (1089505) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @12:42PM (#30145180)
          Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, especially when it comes to the government.
          • by jcr (53032) <jcr@nOspAm.mac.com> on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @01:21PM (#30145728) Journal

            Don't assume that malice and stupidity are mutually exclusive.

            -jcr

          • by CannonballHead (842625) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @01:27PM (#30145808)
            Unless it's the Bush administration, in which case all were evil genius's that knew everything. Obama and his administration, on the other hand, are well-intentioned never-lying non-politician politicians. From Chicago. Infinitely more trustworthy.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              I was always amused by that portrayal of the Bush administration.

              On the one hand they were evil and perpetrated some horrific things with amazing efficiency. They pulled off an intricate and vast conspiracy that any rational thinking human should immediately realize could never happen. To do so he would have to be a diabolical genius.

              On the other hand he was portrayed as this completely incompetent idiot who shouldn't be trusted to do anything.

              Kind of like the amusing portrayal of Florida voters in the Go

              • Reminds me of when Fox News tried to sue The Simpsons, of Fox Enterntainment, who put a fake news crawl across the bottom of the screen because it could confuse the viewers [guardian.co.uk] into thinking the items were real news items.

                Same thing with Bill O'Reilly who tried to sue Al Franken when Franken used Bill's image on the cover of his book, claiming people might think Bill endorsed the book [cbsnews.com]. Fox also participated because Franken used the words, 'Fair and Balanced' on the cover and, like Bill, claimed people wou
              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by mweather (1089505)
                Bush was an idiot. His cabinet was not.
                • Idiot or not, not everyone thinks Obama all he was supposed to be cracked up to be, especially foreign diplomacy at the moment. [google.com] But I guess that's probably China's fault, just like the economy is Bush's fault, the bad health care is doctor's fault, the problems with journalism today is conservatives' (talkshows especially) and Fox News's fault, and the problem with education is religion's fault (nevermind that early American education was because of religion, not in spite of)...

                  In other words, all problems

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by bonch (38532)

            It's interesting how people will defend obvious corruption when there's a Democrat involved.

            • by Pojut (1027544)

              Your post implies people don't do the same thing when it's a Republican. Christ, if you are going to accuse a side of acting childish and turning a blind eye to corruption, don't neglect to mention the other side is doing the same thing.

              "I'll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. 'I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.' 'I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.' 'Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding out both puppets!'" -Bill Hicks

        • by jhoegl (638955) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @12:47PM (#30145238)
          Yes it does... The jobs do exist and you can find them via Zip code instead of district. The reality was that there was no district fact checking and nothing more. You want to blame anyone, blame the people that wrote down the false districts.
        • Biased much? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@nOSpam.yahoo.com> on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @12:48PM (#30145248) Journal

          Sorry, I can't trust any web site with that much obvious bias. hotair.com has obviously decided that Obama sucks, and they will do anything to prove it. I've yet to see anything logical or factual from the Obama haters. Not that I've had any high expectations for Obama, but these loons seem to think he kills old people by throwing babies at them, holds seances to talk to Lenin's ghost, and farts demons. It's hilarious to watch loons like you writhe about in abject terror over the coming End of America.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            And yet, I presume you listened to mainstream media (CNN, ABC, etc) when they all decided that they didn't like Bush.

            So in other words, your argument: I like Obama, and hotair (and similar journalists) doesn't. Therefore, hotair (etc.) are wrong and I won't listen to them, because they obviously don't know the truth.

            I am not so sure that the mainstream media who obviously like Obama are "fair" and "unbiased" in their "reporting" of things. And it actually shocks me that CNN and ABC ran stories about the "

            • by Pojut (1027544)

              I find it funny how people never include Fox News when they say "mainstream media".

              • That's because any news entity that sue for the right to make up the news should not be called "mainstream media."
                • by Pojut (1027544)

                  Oh, I don't know...I think all of them would, given the opportunity. Fox just has no shame, so they are willing to actually go and do it. None of them are worth anyone's time, though. Their goal (Fox, MSNBC, etc.) is to sell advertising, not relay the news.

          • by PenguinX (18932)

            I guess you don't read/watch/listen to much news do you :)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dan_sdot (721837)
            To be honest, I find it a bit disturbing that you could simply dismiss the OP's links because you don't like the website they came from. This really highlights the growing trend of the absolute polarization of American politics.

            Of course hotair is super conservative, but what does that have to do with what is said? There are facts, citations, and original documents in those posts that the OP put up, and that conservative hotair commentator uses those facts to try to illustrate a point. Maybe it is a d
            • by spun (1352)

              It is important to keep an open mind, but not so open your brain falls out.

              I read most of the sources you cite, to get a balanced picture. hotair isn't one of them, it's of no importance and so far off the radar even the loons have a hard time finding it. I'm not dismissing it out of hand. I'm dismissing it for entirely valid reasons. It is a copypasta clone of a thousand other ignorant hate sites. If you've seen one, you've seen them all.

              • by dan_sdot (721837)
                My point isn't that everybody should read hotair to be balanced. I personally don't read hotair because I just don't feel like it.

                My point is that dismissing it because it is "biased" or, as you put it, a "hate site" is a bad way to go. If, as a country, the US reaches the point where one side dismisses the other side's arguments as simply "stupid" or "hateful" or "evil" or whatever without even understanding the arguments... then yes, that is the very definition of closed-mindedness.
                • by spun (1352)

                  On the other hand, we should never be tolerant of hatefulness and stupidity just so that we can seem tolerant and balanced. Hate is hate, and stupidity is stupidity, and I'm not going to sugar coat my opinions just because some hateful loon might get offended.

          • by BobMcD (601576)

            I agree that a lot of the Obama hate seems way out in left field, but I also am sorely disappointed by the contrast between what was 'sold' and what we 'got'. I think that this is likely the basis for the fervor. Either personal disappointment, or more likely disillusionment around how someone could actually 'like' him.

            On the other hand, it isn't all totally baseless, either. As a minor example of some hate that is true (that honestly surprised me): It is in fact true that he does not make a habit out of

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by n0-0p (325773)

          Nothing in your post does anything to contradict the original explanation. There are tens of thousands of projects receiving stimulus funding, and of course there will be some errors and oversights. Any large program will have that, but all that you've provided are a few barely sourced links that at most account for an infinitesimally small percentage of the spending. Given that this is all you have after months of public disclosure on stimulus spending, the only rational conclusion is that the program appe

          • by Ogive17 (691899)
            While the public works projects are probably helping to save jobs, I only need to drive a block from work to see how the money is being wasted.

            Recently a very short portion of a road was repaved (1/4 mile at most). The road gets little traffic, at the end of the 1/4 mile you're in the country flanked by two corn fields. There are a couple of small businesses in that section. The road before was not in the best condition, but I've seen much worse.

            Ok, they paved the road. Then they put up a 20'x20' si
        • by Gilmoure (18428)

          Folks on the inside know that the house of cards is coming down and are grabbing all that they can while they can?

        • by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @02:34PM (#30146808) Journal
          From the article linked to for NJ (which has nothing to do with NJ, btw -- are you trolling, assuming no one would click your links?) -- (emphasis mine)

          At Southwest Georgia Community Action Council in Moultrie, Ga., director Myrtis Mulkey-Ndawula said she followed the guidelines the Obama administration provided. She said she multiplied the 508 employees by 1.84 -- the percentage pay raise they received -- and came up with 935 jobs saved.

          You can't help idiocy. This idiot multiplied 508 by 1.84 instead of by 0.0184. People make stupid mistakes, and the failure here is that no one checked it.

      • Oh, well, that explains everything. Certainly we should trust all of the data that's not obviously in error--after all, just because the people entering data (and presumably the people proofreading it) didn't realize that districts like the 69th, 86th, and 99th don't exist in any state in the Union, and that anybody who has ever watched a Presidential election could figure it out trivially, doesn't mean that we can't trust the facts and figures they've published that don't have such obvious sanity checks.

        O

    • DId you even read (Score:4, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @12:27PM (#30144960) Homepage Journal

      that story? it's about people not correctly reporting their district.

      • by furball (2853)

        It's a story about a system that doesn't verify data sent to them.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @12:12PM (#30144722) Homepage
    The primary problem with the science stimulus funding is not it going to non-science issues. The real issue is that much of the funding is going to projects which aren't going to be completed before the funding runs out. Many if not most of those projects will then be scrambling for funding and a lot of good science will likely get lost because they can't complete them. The stimulus funding should have been directed to more shorter term studies.
    • But without the stimulus those projects wouldn't have got started at all and have no chance at getting funding when the money stops.

      Its a 'stimulus package', not a 'do it all package'.

    • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @12:45PM (#30145200) Homepage Journal

      The real problem with the stimulus as a whole was that it was too short term. That's why we see economic growth picking up, but not employment. Employers scramble to get their share of the dough, but they don't hire people because they know the dough is going to be gone in a few months.

      The very idea of a short term science or technology stimulus is silly. If you have something that will be worth doing in the short term, that should be easy funding -- especially in technology. A real stimulus needs to give people the confidence to make long term decisions -- like where to direct their careers, or to start up companies to develop technologies that won't be market ready for two or three years.

      • Just to be sure, you're aware that the vast majority (somewhere in the neighborhood of 80-85%) of the stimulus money hasn't been spent yet, right? I think there's a lot of talk as if we went to the grocery store when the bill was signed and laid $787 billion down at the checkout counter. Even TFA sort of implies this when it refers to the argument over how many jobs the stimulus package actually created, as if all of the money is spent and we're now just trying to measure the results. Also, a lot of the

        • by hey! (33014)

          Yes, I'm aware of that. That's the way it should be. There was a great deal of pressure to restrict stimulus dollars for "shovel-ready" projects, if you recall, so more money may have been spent faster in order to get those particular legislators on board. The publicity may have blunted the package's immediate effects somewhat.

            In an ideal world, you'd get the entire stimulus from promising "jam tomorrow", but never delivering "jam today".

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by n0-0p (325773)

        That's why we see economic growth picking up, but not employment.

        Please provide at least one citation of an economic recovery in which employment did not lag behind all other major indicators by at least 6 to 18 months. Because, based on all historical data, employment is always a lagging indicator of a recovery. And the current trends show employment improving by February 2010, which is right on schedule given that the other indicators picked up around July 2009.

        • by hey! (33014)

          Of course employment always lags other indicators, because employers don't want to hire until they know the improvement is permanent. That's why *short term* stimulation is ineffective. We aren't going to get sustained economic growth in this country without employment. You want jobs to come back as quickly as possible, but it's not going to be instantaneous.

      • by kmac06 (608921)

        A real stimulus needs to give people the confidence to make long term decisions -- like where to direct their careers, or to start up companies to develop technologies that won't be market ready for two or three years.

        Yep. I.e., cut taxes.

    • by brian0918 (638904)

      The stimulus funding shouldn't have occurred.

      There, corrected that for ya.

    • Actually, the problem with science-specific funding in the stimulus bill is not that these projects will require additional funding, but that the funding won't be spent quickly. The NYT and other papers have been covering the fact that many projects have gotten the funding they desperately need from the stimulus bill to complete their research, but will be spending that funding over the next decade. Researchers are under political pressure to spend the funding quickly, but the research intrinsically takes t
    • by Bowling Moses (591924) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @01:05PM (#30145534) Journal
      "The real issue is that much of the funding is going to projects which aren't going to be completed before the funding runs out."

      That's not the way it works. For starters there's rarely, if ever, a definitive "end point" for a study. There's always something more that could be done; it's a piss-poor paper that doesn't bring out new issues to explore. Running out of money or key personnel moving on to a new position often times is the end where whatever you've got is bundled up into a publication(s). If it isn't at the level of a..."least publishable unit" then it might sit around for a year or three until the principal investigator can scrounge up time or more often the case money to get it to that LPU point.

      "Many if not most of those projects will then be scrambling for funding..."

      This is what academic scientists call "situation normal" or "Wednesday" it's how the game doesn't work for about the last 15 years or so, and getting worse every year. You are constantly scrambling for money, any money, to keep yourself and your staff employed and doing science.
      • by cephalien (529516)

        And the sort of misunderstanding perpetuated by the OP is exactly why I'm of a duality when it comes to making the underpinnings of scientific funding and research available to the general public.

        It's not that I think people shouldn't have access to and be able to find out where their tax dollars go (I pay them too!), but it's all too easy for someone not in the hard sciences to look at what's going on and say, 'Where's my output?' or, 'Why are they studying cannabis. Isn't that illegal?'

        Having said that, t

  • Looking over various lists of projects, I am thinking there is not a lot of stimulating going on - a lot of this cash is going to be hoarded by projects, eeked out over a few years.

    R&D spending is important, but it should be in it's own bill covering scientific advancement - not a giant bill covering everything everywhere, with very little thought into what the best projects are to actually get funding.

    • by DriedClexler (814907) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @12:21PM (#30144858)

      You are absolutely correct.

      But the sad reality is that a) scientific spending has the highest return of any government policy (most of which has a negative return), and b) the alternative is not to get science funded through a R&D bill, but to release the funds to other frivolous projects that lobbyists like, and leave nothing for pure, long-term-oriented scientific research.

      So I'm going to have to cynically label this "it shouldn't be in the stimulus, but something else" as a low-priority issue.

    • by sorak (246725)

      I think the problem is that R&D is good for long-term stimulus. By maintaining human progress, we are attempting to stock tomorrows shelves, and to provide our children with a few less broken windows. Unfortunately, it does not fit into an ROI equation, so it is hard to justify.

      Is it dishonest to try to pass off a long term strategy as a "holy hell, the apocalypse is nie!" reaction? Yes. But, doing so helps get an effective strategy off the ground. I won't lose any sleep over it.

    • I don't know about this particular issue, but the rationale for including some of the not-really-stimulus spending in the stimulus bill was that it was compensating for shortfalls that were due to the economic contraction. So for example, increasing unemployment benefits isn't exactly stimulative, but it helps people out in the mean time until the economy recovers. Likewise, increasing scholarships isn't exactly the most stimulative thing, but as the economy contracts and people can't afford to pay for co

    • >> R&D spending is important, but it should be in it's own bill covering scientific advancement

      R&D spending IS important, and it should be done by companies and non profits that are motivated to create things you need, not politicians.

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @12:24PM (#30144910) Homepage Journal

    is very transparent. Most of it is published. Budgets are public.

    While we always need more transparency, I am surprised how many people don't even know that budgets are published and kept in libraries.

    What is better is letting people know where this data is, and also getting it online.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @12:26PM (#30144930)

    This isn't a gov site. from the about us page:

    ScienceWorksForUS is a joint effort of the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and The Science Coalition (TSC) to demonstrate the impact of stimulus-funded university research activities across the country.

    These are trade/lobbying organizations, not government agencies.

  • Stimulus Funding (Score:5, Informative)

    by cephalien (529516) <benjaminlungerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @12:32PM (#30145030)

    It's important to note that this stimulus funding (they're also called 'Recovery Act' grants) were under a very short submission cycle.

    Essentially, we only had a few months to prepare and submit a proposal to get funded, which isn't a lot of time -- unless you already had a proposal ready (or nearly ready) in the wings. What this means in a practical sense is that a lot of what the stimulus funds would have ended up going to is work that's in-progress, or stuff that larger labs want to do as pilot projects.

    Also: someone in here suggested shorter-term studies. That's not how real science is done. We try to encapsulate some specific aims in the grant time-frame, but what really happens fundamentally is that we end up using the grant funds to answer enough questions that we can go and apply for another grant.

    It's a much-less cohesive and efficient system than many people realize.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pz (113803)

      It's important to note that this stimulus funding (they're also called 'Recovery Act' grants) were under a very short submission cycle.

      Essentially, we only had a few months to prepare and submit a proposal to get funded, which isn't a lot of time -- unless you already had a proposal ready (or nearly ready) in the wings.

      Was it even months? I recall it being less than that. It was an incredibly short cycle. Also, reading through the list of proposed areas of research was obviously reading through a list of project summaries that were culled out of program officers' piles of unfunded grant applications, making it seem like the decisions had already been made.

      The ironic thing about the ARRA funding was that new investigators are the best way to create jobs and economic stimulus. New investigators need to buy equipment and

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cephalien (529516)

        Was it even months? I recall it being less than that. It was an incredibly short cycle. Also, reading through the list of proposed areas of research was obviously reading through a list of project summaries that were culled out of program officers' piles of unfunded grant applications, making it seem like the decisions had already been made.

        That's absolutely true. In my particular example, we re-submitted a grant that had already been rejected (after making the requisite changes, of course). I expect that happened quite a lot, since the alternative was writing a whole new proposal in a very short span of time.

        That's not to say that none of the things proposed weren't fundable-quality, but more that the recovery act funds aren't going to say, make new jobs. Technicians who are already hired will stay hired, postdocs like myself will get another

        • I'm really pulling this out of nowhere (no sources or anything, just what seems to make sense to me), but I would think that during times of severe recession/depression, the R&D areas of the economy would be one of the most vulnerable sectors. The problem is they primarily fall into two categories: Tax-funded/grant-funded institutions (Universities, mainly) and R&D either dependent on or connected to a corporation. There may be a lot of independent R&D shops out there that don't fit this pictu

  • All it told me about my state was the number of grants given and the dollar amount of grants in total. It didn't tell me anything at all about what they were given FOR or whom they were given TO. Not very useful in determining if any of it was money well spent, or money wasted.
  • Chicken or Egg? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cyberElvis (309765)

    A quick look at the site, and I found this: http://www.scienceworksforus.org/virginia/u-va-receives-grant-to-study-effect-of-federal-stimulus-on-science-and-engineering-jobs [scienceworksforus.org]
    Stimulus money to study the effect of stimulus money!

    Sure let's just keep printing money! I am sure the value of the dollar won't go down.

    • You object to spending something like 0.01% of the funding to evaluate how well the program worked and how to optimize government spending on science (which annually is much larger than the bit included in the stimulus bill) in the future?
    • It turns out that the most efficient type of stimulus spending is spending on studies of stimulus spending.

  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @01:30PM (#30145878)

    from the we-blew-it-on-bubblegum dept.

    Well clearly it wasn't spent on kicking ass.

  • Responsive Team (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pgn674 (995941) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @01:31PM (#30145888) Homepage
    So, I checked out my state quickly, and noticed that my university was listed [scienceworksforus.org], for a grant I'd heard about a couple months ago. However, the link to my university's home page was incorrect; it was to a domain that wasn't even registered.

    So I used the easily found feedback form to quickly point it out, figuring I'd forget about it later today and never find out or really care if the link was fixed. 18 minutes later I got an email thanking me and saying they'd fix it today. Then 4 minutes later I got another email from a different person saying it was fixed. I refreshed the page, and the link was good.

    I know this is one, small incident. But I think it's evidence of a highly responsive, competent, and organized team (technical or support, I'm not sure). I think this indicates that if the upper people and committees allow for it, this web site can do Good Things.
  • Back in February (Score:2, Informative)

    by Virtucon (127420)

    Back in February after the Stimulus Bill was passed, I was flying from Washington DC to Raleigh Durham. Onboard the plane were two congressmen, one so myopic that he literally had to read things two inches from his nose. This is with glasses too. You couldn't help but overhear how proud they were of passing the legislation but what was funny is that both of them were commenting on specific parts of it and each passing back pages of the legislation back and forth.

    "Did you know that was in there?"

    "Hey, wha

  • by gpronger (1142181) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @03:12PM (#30147290) Journal
    I've been employed within the environmental industry, and there is a marked improvement in availability of information from the Federal government since Obama in terms of both what is available on their websites and the implementation of email updates on regulatory changes, proposals, research, etc.

    Just the improved information availability is a significant improvement.
  • ... in there about research on flying cars.

It's a poor workman who blames his tools.

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