The NSF online porn scandal!

Finally I have a post topic (almost) as attention-getting as scicurious’ posts (see, for instance, here and here)!  It was reported a few days ago that an internal investigation by the National Science Foundation’s inspector general has revealed numerous cases of employees of the NSF downloading porn at work.  Via Politico,

Despite the less-than-lurid sound of the probes, the employees in question weren’t just logging onto their Facebook accounts or buying birthday gifts on Amazon.com. The report says they were watching, downloading and e-mailing porn, sometimes for significant portions of their workdays, and over periods of months or even years.

In one particularly egregious case, the report says one NSF “senior official” was discovered to have spent as much as 20 percent of his working hours over a two-year interval “viewing sexually explicit images and engaging in sexually explicit online ‘chats’ with various women.”

Investigators calculated the value of the time lost at more than $58,000 — for that employee alone.

The revelations of the report have gotten Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley up in arms, and he has requested/demanded all relevant documents related to the scandal.

A quick read through the relevant section of the internal report reveals abuses bordering on absurdity.  For instance,

  • We received information that an NSF senior official was viewing sexually explicit material on his NSF computer in violation of NSF’s computer use policies. We determined that, for the past two years, the employee had been repeatedly and excessively visiting pornographic websites and spending up to 20 percent of his official work time viewing sexually explicit images and engaging in sexually explicit on-line “chats” with various women. Based on the employee’s salary we identified a potential loss of more than $58,000 in employee compensation for that personal time.
  • An NSF staff member reported that sounds overheard from a co-worker’ computer speakers suggested that the employee was viewing pornographic videos. We reviewed the employee’s NSF computer drives and found no evidence that the employee saved inappropriate images or videos. However, we determined that the employee used his NSF computer to visit a variety of pornographic websites on numerous occasions during official work hours. We concluded that the employee’s perusal of such websites during work time violated NSF policies. NSF action is pending.

The first thought one has:  these had to be very troubled and/or stupid employees.  Isn’t it common knowledge, everywhere, that information on work computers is not private?

It is unclear that the problem is really widespread or the result of a number of troubled individuals.  Only seven cases were reported amongst some 1500 individuals employed by the NSF, though the report points out that a thorough investigation of the servers has not yet been done.  If I were to guess, I would say that this is likely a ‘tempest in a teapot’.

One thing  troubles me, especially since it is a Republican senator leading the investigation, and they’ve not shown themselves to be particularly pro-science: I worry that this sort of incident will be used as a political strategy to bludgeon and intimidate scientists even more than was done over the last eight years.  Scientists could be especially vulnerable to ‘bean-counting’ of hours worked and accusations of unproductivity, considering that many of them have unusual work schedules.

Anyway, if you’re going to watch porn at work, at least watch PG Porn… (though I still wouldn’t recommend it)

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3 Responses to The NSF online porn scandal!

  1. IronMonkey says:

    Would that be part of the reason why remote work from home is getting more popular these days? I just though it was a more efficient way of using time for working instead of spending time commuting… 😉

  2. Matty says:

    This is so sad. Maybe they were just studying for the sake of science jk. I’m just sort of depressed that this is happening because I know this is not an isolated case. Oh humanity you’ve failed me once again!

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