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Policy

Senators Question Spending By NSF-Funded Project

by Andrea Widener
September 29, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 39

Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are asking the leaders of an NSF-funded research project to explain their spending. Specifically, they want to know about an office Christmas party, premium coffee services, a board of directors dinner that included alcoholic beverages, and apparel for employees. The senators say those and other expenses should not have been allowed at the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), an NSF-funded, Boulder, Colo.-based project that studies the effects of climate change, land use patterns, and other changes on U.S. ecosystems. A whistle-blower gave the senators a draft audit that said NEON had spent about $890,000 since 2009 to cover items that are not allowed under federal rules. James Collins, chair of NEON’s board of directors, says it is complying with all requests for information. “The NEON project has spent all funding in strict compliance with our understanding of the guidelines provided,” he says. An NSF representative would not offer comment on the matter while it is under investigation but said, “Being a good steward of taxpayer funds is a priority for NSF.”

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