## A response to the Coburn Report

Back in June, I posted briefly about an April 2011 report "The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope: A Report by Tom A. Coburn, M.D., U.S. Senator, Oklahoma".  The Democratic staff of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has recently released a response to Sen. Coburn's report, "Out of Focus: A Critical Assessment of the Senate Report 'The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope'".

The Senate report claims that there are three areas of significant wasted funds at NSF. First, the report claims that NSF is sitting on a large sum — $1.7 billion – of unexpended funds that should be returned to the Treasury. Second, the report claims that duplications between NSF funding and that of other agencies represent another$1.2 billion in wasteful spending. Third, the report asserts that Senate staff identified some $65 million in questionable projects funded by NSF. Committee staff can assure you that NSF is not sitting on$1.7 billion in uncommitted dollars that should be returned to the Treasury. The $1.7 billion represents undisbursed funds obligated for multi-year grants which are legally retained by NSF to meet those obligations. The$1.2 billion in duplication also represents an assertion that comes with no proof. Finally, the \$65 million in questionable projects is built on very superficial press reports of various research efforts.

You can read the two reports and come to your own conclusions.

I'll limit myself to pointing out that the title of the staff response to the Coburn Report contains two colons:

My representation of the original Coburn Report also contained two colons ("The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope: A Report by Tom A. Coburn, M.D., U.S. Senator, Oklahoma"), but if you check the document itself, you'll find that the second colon isn't really there, but just represents the fact that there's a title at the top of the cover page ("The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope") and then a subtitle at the bottom of the page ("A Report by Tom A. Coburn", etc.).

This proliferation of titles, subtitles, subsubtitles, and so on, is agreeably reminiscent of the 17th-century style, as in this example from a discussion of a few days ago:

Our modern polemicists still have a ways to go, but I have high hopes for progress in Washington on this stylistic dimension.

1. ### jo said,

August 11, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

The response, "Out of Focus: A Critical Assessment of the Senate Report 'The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope'", by the way, is here (takes you to a page with a link to a .pdf).

[(myl) Oops, I meant to link to that, but pasted the wrong URL by mistake. Fixed now…]

2. ### oxlahun said,

August 11, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

Titular colonicity has long been an interesting area of study within information science. See especially the works of Llewellyn C. Puppybreath III.

[(myl) Indeed so.]

August 11, 2011 @ 10:59 pm

Technically, does "Out of Focus: A Critical Assessment of the Senate Report 'The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope'" really have two colons either? It seems to me the second colon after "Foundation" is in a different scope as it is part of the quoted title of the original report and so hardly counts.

4. ### Leonardo Boiko said,

August 12, 2011 @ 10:37 am

Yes, quoted punctuation doesn’t count. What happens inside quotes stays inside quotes.

5. ### David Perry said,

August 12, 2011 @ 11:53 pm

Tom Coburn has had problems with grammar in the past. http://grammaticarum.blogspot.com/2011/07/tom-coburns-plurals-problem.html