Love fossils but struggling to interact with your fellow enthusiasts? The federal government has got your back. Last year, the National Science Foundation awarded a grant of $1.97 million to create a social media platform for fossil enthusiasts according to the 2014 Wastebook released by now-retired Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
The grant aims to “create a new communication network for fossil enthusiasts and professionals” and provides a “web-based education community that connects people with a shared interested in paleontology” and allows users to easily input and share data.
But as the 2014 Wastebook points out, this funding is both unnecessary and duplicative. While the grant recipients claim that fossil enthusiasts desperately need a communication network there are many ways to facilitate discussion in today’s digital age without spending millions. In fact, there are already several online fossil communities including the “Fossil Forum” with 11,000 registered members.
It is not surprising that the NSF has wasteful spending habits. The agency has faced criticism for its spending decisions for years. In 2011 reports found that the NSF wasted nearly $1.2 billion of its $6.9 billion budget due to waste, fraud and duplication.
Defenders of the NSF tout its contribution to scientific research and advancement and have urged congress not to cut funding. However, recent projects of the NSF have included $200,000 to determine why Wikipedia is sexist, $850,000 to teach mountain lions to walk on treadmills and $50,000 to watch sea monkeys swim.
With such ludicrous projects, it is difficult to see what exactly they are contributing to science.