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Porn Controversy at NSF Irks Senator


On the list of people you least want to tick off on Capitol Hill, Sen. Chuck Grassley's name is probably pretty high up there.

Yet some employees of the National Science Foundation have managed to do just that, after allegedly spending a considerable amount of agency time looking at pornography on the Internet.

The revelations about NSF staff members downloading sexually explicit files from the Web and storing them on their computers emerged in a semiannual report by the agency's office of the inspector general. One of the more startling revelations in the report is that an "NSF senior official" had spent up to 20 percent of his official work time viewing sexually explicit materials and engaged in explicit "chats" with various women. The inspector's report said that wasted time carried a cost of $58,000, based on the employee's estimated salary.


Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. The revelations about NSF come as the agency is seeking billions in the federal stimulus plan, a fact that is not lost on the Iowa senator. While Democrats are in control of both the House and Senate and guiding the stimulus legislation, Grassley has a pretty big platform to voice objections to giving more federal money to the agency. And Grassley says he intends to get more information, according to this story in Politico. He wrote a letter recently to NSF's inspector general, asking that the foundation turn over audit reports, evaluations, and other information related to the agency's computer systems.

"The semiannual report raises real questions about how the National Science Foundation manages its resources," Grassley wrote, "and Congress ought to demand a full accounting before it gives the agency another $3 billion in the stimulus bill."

The NSF, based in Arlington, Va., supports all sorts of research on math and science curriculum, professional development, and other efforts to improve instruction. The agency has taken some steps to more closely monitor employees' computer usage after learning of the abuses, the inspector general reported.

We'll have to see what fallout comes of this, as the stimulus moves forward.


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