Is Stimulus Spending Wasted on Science? Depends Whom You Ask

U.S. researchers remain caught in the middle of a continuing political debate over the value of last year's stimulus package. Republican senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John McCain of Arizona take a fresh shot at how federal research agencies are spending their share of the $787 billion from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in a new report—"Summertime Blues: 100 Stimulus Projects that Give Taxpayers the Blues"—that argues the projects are unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer dollars. The list includes more than a dozen research projects funded by the National Science Foundation, including the senators' number six pick, a $1.9 million grant to the California Academy of Sciences, to analyze and catalogue exotic ant species in east Africa.

Recipients strongly disagree, of course, pointing out that the spending not only advances knowledge but also helps the economy by creating jobs.

In fact, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will break ground tomorrow on a $8.1 million laboratory and office building to support the Ocean Observatories Initiative, a $300-million infrastructure project sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Funds for the building come courtesy of stimulus money awarded the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Asked today about the report, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that he didn't consider it to be credible, adding that: "I think this has much more to do with politics.