Investigative Group

Ivy League Schools Ignore Law Requiring Disclosure Of Fed Grant Funding

Prestigious academic recipients of federal science grants have repeatedly violated a 1989 law requiring disclosure of how much federal taxpayers spend on their research, according to a new study.

The study is entitled “Ivy League Flunkers,” and was jointly conducted by two nonprofit groups, Restore Accountability and the White Coat Waste Project. The research is focused on whether prestigious universities complied with the law requiring disclosure of federal funding of research grants.

“Our analysis found that none of the 100 Ivy League press releases we examined complied with the funding disclosure requirements of the Stevens Amendment,” the study said.

The Stevens Amendment is the 1989 statute that requires grant recipients “when issuing statements, press releases, requests for proposals, bid solicitations and other documents describing projects or programs funded in whole or in part with Federal money …” to include:

  • “The percentage of the total costs of the program or project which will be financed with federal money.”
  • “The dollar amount of federal funds for the project or program.”
  • The “percentage and dollar amount of the total costs of the project or program that will be financed by non-governmental sources.”

Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Rand Paul of Kentucky are asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to determine why the law is being ignored.

“We have found most of the documents and statements issued by the recipients of federal funds from these departments reviewed by our offices did not disclose the costs. In some cases, neither the funding agency nor the recipient could or would provide this information when asked.”

The report examined 100 press releases from Ivy League colleges touting scientific studies in 2016 and concluded that at least $250 million in federal funding was not disclosed. The National Institutes for Health (NIH) awarded all of the grants.

Princeton University took $340,000 from the National Institutes on Health to study why monkeys can’t talk like humans. The effort included creating a computer-generated audio file of a voice asking “will you marry me” that the researchers claimed was how it might sound if a primate proposed. Princeton’s news release ignored the $340,000 in federal funding.

“If our nation’s eight most prominent educational institutions are systematically violating funding disclosure law, the problem likely extends to the thousands of other entities receiving the balance of the NIH’s $32 billion annual research budget, and grantees of other agencies covered by the Stevens Amendment,” the study pointed out.

“It is essential that federal agencies covered by the Stevens Amendment enforce public disclosure law that require their grantees to report how much taxpayer money they are spending, and on what. Knowing how taxpayer dollars are spent is an issue of broad, bipartisan interest,” the report continued.

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