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Feds fund ecoATM, Robo-squirrel despite warnings about chronic disease research cuts


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funding-for-robo-squirrel-and-ecoatm-are-among-projects-gop-senator-wants-cutFox News:

The federal government is ready to pay people $45,900 to attend an annual snowmobile competition in Michigan for the next two years.

They're also ready to shell out $516,000 for scientists to develop an ecoATM that will give out cash in exchange for old cell phones and other electronics. And why not drop another $349,862 for a study that looks at the effects of meditation and self-reflection for math, science and engineering majors?

These are just a few of the 164 grants the National Science Foundation approved two weeks ago. Yet around the same time, the administration was warning that the sequester would cut into critical research on chronic diseases.

While some of the less critical grant ideas were scrapped as the NSF looked for ways to scale back and prioritize, the number of allegedly frivolous grants still in play is not sitting well with Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

The GOP senator has been on a campaign to call out what he sees as pockets of wasteful government spending. Since the sequestration took effect March 1, he's sent 11 letters to various department heads highlighting places where they can fiscally trim down.

In a letter to NSF director Subra Suresh, Coburn suggested cutting the grants above along with nine others, including a $515,468 grant used, in part, to study how a shrimp running on a treadmillresponds to alterations in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

"These may be interesting questions to ponder or explore, but just because each is currently being supported by NSF should not mean guaranteed future funding if new applications with greater merit or potential are submitted," Coburn wrote in his March 12 letter. "I appreciate your agency's commitment to continuing grants, but ensuring the most promising new research can be supported next year may require ending or reducing spending on lower priority grants now being funded. Robo-squirrel may have survived its encounters with the rattlesnake but it may have met its match in sequestration if we hope to provide support for more promising scientific projects."

"Robo-squirrel" has long been criticized by Coburn as a big government boondoggle. Researchers at San Diego State University used funds from a $325,000 grant provided by the government-bankrolled NSF to invent a robotic squirrel used for researchers. Coburn has used robo-squirrel as an example multiple times as a government program that needs to be cut.



"I'm here to protect the environment. Thank you for your cooperation."-Robo-Squirrel

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