Not that this is shocking, but…

“Money for Science May Be Scarce With a Republican-Lead House.” From the NYTimes:

In the Republican platform, Pledge to America, the party vows to cut discretionary nonmilitary spending to 2008 levels. Under that plan, research and development at nonmilitary agencies — including those that sponsor science and health research — would fall 12.3 percent, to $57.8 billion, from the Mr. Obama’s request of $65.9 billion for fiscal year 2011.

An analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science looked at what would happen if all of the agencies were cut to the 2008 amounts. The National Institutes of Health would lose $2.9 billion, or 9 percent, of its research money. The National Science Foundation would lose more than $1 billion, or almost 19 percent, of its budget, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would lose $324 million, or 34 percent.

And guess who gets to apply for NSF and NIH fellowships and grants next fall? Yep, me! As if they weren’t hard enough to get already. I wasn’t planning on applying for fellowships this year, but maybe I should while there’s still money left.

Well, at least I’m in a somewhat more secure situation. My program guarantees a stipend for the full five years, so I’ll still be able to pay rent and feed myself. And my department has one of the most well funded research programs in the university, so my research project will still probably have funding, especially since I’ll be working on humans (humans really like to pour money into studying themselves).

But the vast majority of science graduate students aren’t so lucky. Even right now, it’s common for graduate students to depend on outside fellowships for their stipends. And if you’re not working on some sexy topic like human disease or biological warfare agents, those grants are going to become even more competitive.

I’m not so much concerned on missing out on the prestige and small raise that would come with an NSF fellowship. I’m concerned that the United States is likely going to fall even farther behind in science.

But hey, I can always go abroad for my post-doc…


  1. says

    The good news is that they only control one house. Whatever they do has to get through the Senate and the veto. Now the question is who is willing to compromise and where before government comes to a grinding halt.

  2. says

    And why is it always non military spending? With military spending constituting something like 23% of the federal budget, and many times higher than any of our potential adversaries combined, if they really care about deficit spending, that seems like the place to start.

  3. says

    _That_ is what pisses me off.Especially since the military is often pimped as an education/jobs program. I remember before the Afghan/Iraq fiasco, when all of the ads turned into “Talk to your kids about it…” type ads (they remind me of ‘it’s OK if your kid is gay’ PSAs for the traditional religious), they were all about “Get training! Get a job! Get money for college!” That’s awesome – let’s take the military part out and just spend the money on getting kids trained, getting them to college, and getting them jobs. Oh, and improving our science. It’s our science and technology that makes us strong – and our lack thereof that pulls us down.

  4. says

    Exactly. Like we really know that we have to spend huge amounts of money to educate kids and create jobs, but we’re only OK with it if we’re educating them to kill people and giving them jobs killing people.

  5. bob42 says

    We spend more money on the military than Europe, China, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and Russia combined.In fairness, I’ll point out that love of military spending is not a uniquely republican tendency. The beneficiaries of such spending lobby democratic politicians too.

  6. says

    “I wasn’t planning on applying for fellowships this year, but maybe I should while there’s still money left.”Um, what?? Apply for the GRFP now, please. You have fantastic chances at getting it. You do public science outreach.

  7. says

    It’s appalling. The fact that the military budget is approximately $800,000,000,000 and is ten times what EVERYONE else on the planet spends is simply accepted as standard operating procedure in Washington. No matter who is in charge. Military appropriations are the one area where there is apparently NO disagreement between Republicans and Democrats. The endless war machine must constantly be maintained.God only knows what would happen if we only outspent the rest of the world combined by 5 times and spent $400,000,000,000 on our infrastructure or R&D or education per year… Oh wait… We would be a first world country again.

  8. says

    Maintenance of the endless war machine is the only truly bipartisan issue. When was the last time any politician seriously contemplated reductions in the military?

  9. bob says

    They’ll probably divert the money from science program to a fund to provide everyone in the country with a bible.

  10. Shac says

    I’ve been working in science since the Clinton years and the Bush administration was really rough on science funding. Folks who couldn’t get funding ended up working for Biodefence, which pays scientists more at the National Labs, but is just not that interesting, however it will likely not see funding cuts through any R administration.

  11. Ihateaphids says

    You may think going abroad is a good idea, but the reality is that funding in the US, even under restricted budgets is far superior than most countries. I’d stick around…Also, never delay proposal writing, and apply for anything that’s available to you. You get one proposal accepted and you can fly high for your entire graduate career. Start submitting your FIRST YEAR! You only get 2 shots at a NSF grad proposal, why waste one?

  12. Vanessa says

    Gah, this annoys me. They’re going to start cutting everything else like they cut the space program. What happened to our drive to explore and discover? Oh that’s right, we’re too busy closing our ears and going “lalalala” to new information because the bible tells us everything we need to know. Rar.

  13. ethanol says

    The B1 bomber, and many other major military systems, has parts made in every single state. Military contractors understand that congress controls spending and they have brought the manipulation of congress to a fine art.

  14. says

    Yes, and the Senate was doing just a *wonderful* job on the progressive agenda before the elections, which it will no doubt, having remained under the same leadership, continue to do so…

  15. says

    Shut down of research funding started in the Reagan years and has never fully recovered since. I’d go right ahead and apply for everything you can regardless. Firstly, the more you get, the better your chances are later for more grants. Secondly even if you don’t get them, the experience helps you refine your later applications so the sooner you start, the better.

  16. says

    You can always apply for DoD grants – they’re not cutting military spending :-/Sooo glad I got my NSF last year before the big shitpile.

  17. MPH146 says

    I’ve lurked on your blog on and off for a few months. I don’t recall commenting on any of your other posts, although I have found many of them to be interesting, funny, and entertaining. And as someone who lived in IN for 20 years and graduated from Purdue, I also think Indiana looks really good in the rear view mirror (although I went to FL instead of WA). But I cannot let this post and its comments pass without comment myself.What you (and some of your commenters) are saying is that you’re disappointed that the government won’t force me to pay you to study what you want to study (or do you think I pay taxes willingly?).I’ll compromise with you. I’ll support your desire to be paid to study what you want to study, if you’ll support my desire to study what I want to study.I want to study the sociological effect on my life of having a Ferrari 599. Although I’m well above average in IQ and other attributes that are not immediately obvious (e.g. honesty), I’m below average in looks (unlike yourself) and social skills (particularly making “first impressions”). Will more hot babes (such as yourself) throw themselves at me if I have a Ferrari 599 than if I don’t? (I already know that no hot babes will throw themselves at me if I don’t have one.) Will I get more or less respect from valet parking attendants? Will I get better service in the drive up windows (bank, fast food, etc.)? This is one of the things I’d like to get paid to study (there are others, but this is at least PG rated).Government shouldn’t be forcing taxpayers to pay for research they don’t want. If taxpayers wanted it, they would pay for it willingly via donations to organizations such as The March of Dimes (which funded polio research, and did it so well that polio is all but unheard of), or Jerry Lewis’ annual Muscular Distrophy fund raising drive. Additionally, many universities do research (as I am sure you’re aware) without the benefit of government funding, as well as corporations.Or are you one of those people who think no scientific research was done, no art was made, and no one was educated, prior to government funding? If so, you need to take some more history classes. James Watt’s steam engine was privately funded. Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla both did their work without government funding. Why can’t you? Is it because you want to research something so obscure, that nobody but you and a few others see the benefit in it?When science (or art, or education) is funded by government, politics determines what is funded. Not common sense, not public desire, not even what produces the most “bang for the buck”; politics. When the hurricane of political winds shift, so does what is funded. You should be arguing for LESS government funding of science, art, education, etc., NOT more. More money in the private sector allows for more private and corporate funded research. Such research tends to be less effected by elections. If you want strongly enough to do exactly the research you like, either get a job that you can use to support yourself and your research and fund your research yourself; or form your own company and find people willing to support your research (venture capitalists, charitable organizations, investors). Or do you WANT to be a whore for the government the rest of your career?The attitude that the government should pay for YOUR preferred research job translates to you wanting the government to mug me for your benefit, because you think what YOU want to do with my money is better for me (and/or others) than what I would do with it if I were free to choose. If you want to mug me to get the money to support yourself and your cause, at least have the guts to do it yourself.

  18. Der Bruno Stroszek says

    Or do you WANT to be a whore for the government the rest of your career?God, I love libertarians. Gubbermintz is bad because it controls everything, and they might put conditions or something on what you can research. Fortunately, private investors have never put any conditions on any money they’ve given out! Even though we’d all be happy allowing them to do that, because they fart unicorns!Can we set up a charity for these tragic victims of government mugging? The knowledge that 0.000003 of a cent of their money might have gone on genome research is just the most tragic case of injustice in the whole annals of human suffering. Somewhere, a Khmer Rouge survivor is weeping at MPH146’s post, thinking, “At least I didn’t have to go through that.”

  19. MPH146 says

    Of course privately funded research will put conditions on what their money is used for. You’d have to be a moron to think otherwise, and I don’t think either of us is a moron. To take an example from the past, the March of Dimes was originally created to fund polio research, and if you were claiming to do polio research so as to get funding from them while actual researching, say, a cure for chicken pox, they would be understandably upset with you. If you paid for a station wagon but got a motor cycle (or vice versa) wouldn’t you be upset? I have no problem with any kind of research, so I don’t know why you picked genome research as an example, as I didn’t mention any type of research. What type of research you want to do isn’t what I object to, I object to my being given the following “choice”: pay for it or go to prison.The government is bad not because it puts conditions on what research it funds, but because it puts people in prison who are unwilling to fund it. And while YOUR favorite research might only cost each taxpayer 0.000003 of a cent (although I am curious as to what research you can do for $4.02 – which is 0.000003 cents * 134,000,000 taxpayers, but I suppose you could have been engaging in hyperbole), YOUR’S isn’t the only research being performed. Even if it were, it would be “the camel’s nose in the tent”, which rather rapidly is followed by the rest of the camel (as history has shown). Government is evil by its very nature. It is raw, naked force. But it is a necessary evil, up to a point. I notice you didn’t explain why YOUR favorite research is so necessary that it must be backed by evil means. You just engaged in name calling and expressions of derision. I wonder if that’s because you have no argument based on reason to defend your views, and so have nothing to offer beyond kindergarden level name calling.If you want research money without conditions on how it is spent USE YOUR OWN! Is that so hard to understand?Here’s what I’d like to see researched: why do men die 5+ years earlier than women? I think ALL research that doesn’t address this longevity gap should be discontinued until men and women have the same life expectancy. Will I demand that a law be passed to do this? No, because I don’t have the right to tell you what research to fund with your money. If I don’t have that right, how can my representative get that right? I won’t ask my representative to do something for me that I don’t have the right to do myself. That’s known as integrity. You should try it, it can be wonderful.Alas, far too many people in this country see government as a way to fund their favorite cause (whether it be medical research, helping the disabled, helping the elderly, etc.). Rather than do what the march of dimes did (and to a certain extent, still does), and persuade people to support your cause, you want to do the easy thing and just convince the government to force all of us to support your cause whether we willingly would or not. How compassionate of you. You’ve decided that what YOU want researched is more important than what I want researched, and as a result you’re willing to put the force of government behind your desires.If you’re willing to send armed government agents to my house who will take my property and imprison me for your monetary benefit, that makes you a thug, and a cowardly one at that.

  20. says

    Yes people did science without government funding, some people still do but it’s very near impossible now. No one other than the hyper-rich could possibly fund something like the LHC or the human genome project. Government funding for science funds things that otherwise wouldn’t get funded because they’re not profitable (malaria anyone? what’s that it’s a 3rd world problem: don’t bother then). Private funding follows the money, public funding can (in principle) follow what’s important. I have no problem with government having some say in what gets researched but they should also be advised rather than just lead, science requires a massive in depth knowledge and unless you have it it can be very difficult to see what really needs researching. If they want research to be done they have to realise that it’s not something you can fund as a one off. Science requires continual investment.

  21. says

    Jen, I’d be careful about trying to move abroad there’s certainly not much money for science in the UK (although we didn’t get slammed as hard as expected just 10% reduction in real terms over 4 years). Of course if you know a second language you might do better.. good luck!

  22. says

    Like UBC. They’re a top choice simply because they have the best academic regalia. If you want to look really cool and important at convocations and graduations and such when you’re a professor (even cooler and more important than the university president), then you simply have to go to UBC. And I would just hate to be the guy up there in the boring black gown with black trim. Or even red with black trim. Probably why I didn’t get my PhD, I can’t go anywhere else, and my school has ugly regalia. That’s right, a man making academic decisions based on fashion!

  23. says

    I work in industry. We base what we do (as does everyone) on results from basic research from labs at least partially funded by government money (NIH grants, etc.). All research is useful; science is serendipity. If was as society only funded research that was absolutely geared towards producing a marketable drug within ten years, we would be hopelessly stagnated.

  24. says

    My point was that you cannot expect industry to do a lot of blue skies research because they will want to fund what is profitable. Hence areas that are less directly profitable (like a lot of blue skies research or disease research for the third world) are often passed over.Summation: companies won’t do blue skies science because it’s cheaper to get universities do it. If the U.S. stops funded research the companies will go abroad for their research.

  25. says

    I wasn’t disagreeing with you, just offering supporting evidence for your position. :) There is a lot of research that simply won’t get done if it’s not publicly funded, and that research is critical. It’s not the kind of short-term investment that gives stockholders a happy feeling. It’s long-term investment in our broad knowledge base and our scientific progress overall.

  26. carovee says

    Delurking…Whoa, I just had a flashback to a meeting I attending as an undergrad on graduate schools. Everytime the speaker mentioned how much harder it was to get money for post-college education, which he did a lot, he held up a picture of Ronald Reagan.Relurking …

  27. thx1183 says

    I would LIKE to think the New York Times wouldn’t mispell “led” as “lead”. But then, a few years ago I would have liked to think they wouldn’t repeat claims from administration officials as fact without doing any kind of investigation, and we know how that turned out.

  28. thx1183 says

    I didn’t expect them to advance a progressive agenda, butthey couldn’t even advance a mildly liberal Democratic agenda. George W. Bush handed the Democrats a gigantic present by making Republicans look absolutely cluess on foreign and military policy. The Dems sent it back unopened.

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