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

by FOXNews.com  |  published on March 17, 2013

robo squirrel

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 treadmill responds to alterations in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

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