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The mission of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is to audit federal programs and detail its findings in reports. Reports are everything to the GAO, so much so that sometimes reports are issued about (what else) reports, which are about more reports.
That’s why the GAO found itself the recipient of an Ig Nobel Prize this year. The congressional agency received the “Literature Prize” for its May 10, 2012, report for the Department of Defense (DOD): “Defense Management: Actions Needed to Evaluate the Impact of Effort....”
The purpose of the Ig Nobel Prizes is to “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think,” according to the editors of the Annals of Improbable Research, which organizes the prizes.
After reviewing the above referenced report, those awarding the prizes (the “Ignitaries”) concluded the document was “a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.”
The report concluded that, “DOD Lacks a Plan to Evaluate the Impact of its Efforts to Estimate Costs.” Or, to put it in more words: “DOD has not evaluated and currently does not plan to evaluate the usefulness of its efforts to estimate the costs of selected reports and studies as one of the means for achieving the Secretary of Defense’s intended purpose of increasing the transparency of costs, reducing or eliminating reporting requirements, and instilling a culture of cost consciousness across DOD.”
Among the other Ig Nobel prizes this year were awards for a joint Dutch-American study that discovered that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends; a French paper that advised doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode; and a Dutch study titled “Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller: Posture-Modulated Estimation.”
The GAO was the only one of this year’s ten winners that did not send a representative to attend the award ceremony, which was held Thursday night at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
The 2012 Ig Nobel Prize Winners (Improbable Research)
Defense Management: Actions Needed to Evaluate the Impact of Effort... (Government Accountability Office) (pdf)
Ig Nobel Prizes Go to Why Beetles Have Sex with Certain Beer Bottle... (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
Ig Nobel Prizes Go to Gas Mask Bras and Creating Diamonds from Tequila (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)