Originally published: August 12, 2010
Last updated: August 12, 2010 - 8:21am
Economic-stimulus funds for scientific research are becoming a political target for Republican skeptics who say they have identified some grants as evidence of wasteful spending. The National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation received $13 billion between them from the stimulus package for extra grants to researchers, upgrades to facilities and professional development activities for scientists. The science spending includes funding for public-health studies, social-science research and overseas travel, which Republicans say have failed to create jobs.
Much of the NIH's $10 billion share of the money has been spent on research into cancer, heart and other diseases. Funding for a range of other studies on substance abuse and public health has raised eyebrows, including research into whether female college students are more likely to engage in casual sex after drinking alcohol, the reasons why young men don't use condoms correctly, how methamphetamine enhances the motivation for female rats' sexual behavior and "obesity and psychosocial adjustment during adolescence." The NIH is pushing back, arguing that it is supporting work on important issues, and that substance abuse is one of them.
Most of the $3 billion of National Science Foundation spending has gone to energy or climate-related research, or work in fields such as astronomy, chemistry and engineering. The agency is also supporting some social-science projects that are unlikely to reap economic rewards in the foreseeable future, such as the documentation of indigenous languages that are nearly extinct, including video recordings of Tlingit conversations in Alaska and analysis of the grammar of Hiaki, an Arizona dialect.
Supporters counter that the funding for science programs is in keeping with the broader economic goals of the stimulus initiative, the full title of which is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
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