Pornography at the National Science Foundation

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


The National Science Foundation, a government outfit responsible for doling out billions annually in grants, has a porn problem, and it’s costing taxpayers money. In its 2010 budget request document, the federal agency’s Office of Inspector General alluded to the embarrassment, without getting into the icky specifics:

With increasing frequency, OIG has been called upon to investigate instances of employee misconduct within the agency. The urgency of these investigations has required the reassignment of staff focused on the core areas of our investigative program: research misconduct and fraud. In 2008, we experienced a 6-fold increase in employee misconduct cases and associated proactive and management implication report activities. To manage this dramatic increase without an increase in staff required us to significantly reduce our efforts to investigate grant fraud. We anticipate a significant decline in investigative recoveries and prosecutions in the coming years as a direct result.

For those of you who aren’t particularly familiar with what the NSF is or does, here’s what its website boasts:

With an annual budget of about $6.06 billion, we are the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.

So, to recap: These people handle TWENTY PERCENT of all federally supported research in all American colleges, and some of them, instead of reviewing grant applications, are sitting at their cubes, having a grand-old time surfing porn.

The story, first reported in The Washington Times, hasn’t gotten the sort of pickup one would expect for something involving such a gross misuse of taxpayer time, money, trust, and, hello, porn. There are even juicy details about horny old men.

One senior NSF executive apparently spent “at least 331 days looking at pornography on his government computer and chatting online with nude or partially clad women without being detected.” When he was finally caught, he retired, but also offered this humanitarian defense of his behavior: “he frequented the porn sites to provide a living to the poor overseas women.”

Memos from the investigators estimated that the porn surfing of this senior official alone cost taxpayers anywhere from $13,800 to $58,000.

And finally, did I mention that the NSF is in charge of giving out American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars? $3 billion. On the NSF website, so far it looks like they’ve funded a grand total of one project with that money. That was back in May.

Definitely not the right kind of stimulus going on here, if you ask me.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate