Provost worried about potentially misused National Science Foundation grants

Jacob Stewart

Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Hoffman is making sure Iowa State does not end up in Yale University’s position by addressing Iowa State’s effort reporting policy.

Effort reporting is a report of how National Science Foundation grants are used by the people who have received them, according to the policy on the Faculty Senate website.

The National Science Foundation’s annual budget is $6.9 billion and it funds around 20 percent of federally supported basic research, according to its website.

One of the main reasons Hoffman wants to adopt a stricter policy on effort reporting is because nine years ago Yale University was involved in a scandal regarding National Science Foundation grant money.

Hoffman, who was and still is an active National Science Foundation auditor, said a number of Yale faculty were being paid with grant money while on vacation.

These grants can only be used for research; there are no exceptions. Because of its employees being given paid vacations, Yale ended up paying back $7 million in grant money in an out-of-court settlement.

Hoffman said because of inadequate records, she does not know if ISU faculty have made this same kind of error.

Ranjan Maitra, associate professor of statistics, said a lot of work is done in the summer while professors are still being paid by National Science Foundation grant money.

He asked if his department could still do non-research work while they were being paid entirely by the National Science Foundation. Hoffman responded by saying that if a professor is doing this, he or she is in violation of his or her agreement with the foundation.

However, if only 60 to 75 percent of the research is being funded by the National Science Foundation and the rest comes from the college, the professor is well within his or her rights to do non-research work.

“We recognize this policy needs work,” Hoffman said.

The vote for changes to the policy has been postponed until the next Faculty Senate meeting March 8.