US federal science funding down 4% :-(

January 9th, 2007

Among the causalities of the current US political turmoil is federal funding for science research. I’ll be the first to agree that compared to the other problems it is not the most important. Yet, there is no good reason for it and it has its ramifications. The CRA policy blog points out an article in the NY Times on the impact of the continuing resolution on science research, Congressional Budget Delay Stymies Scientific Research.

“The failure of Congress to pass new budgets for the current fiscal year has produced a crisis in science financing that threatens to close major facilities, delay new projects and leave thousands of government scientists out of work, federal and private officials say.”

The NSF, a major source of Computer Science research funding, is one of the affected agencies.

The National Science Foundation, which supports basic research at universities, had expected a $400 million increase over the $5.7 billion budget it received in 2006. Now, the freeze is prompting program cuts, delays and slowdowns. “It’s rather devastating,” said Jeff Nesbit, the foundation’s head of legislative and public affairs. “While $400 million in the grand scheme of things might seem like decimal dust, it’s hugely important for universities that rely on N.S.F. funding.”

It looks like some “big science” projects will suffer the most including “a $50 million plan to build a supercomputer that universities would use to push back frontiers in science and engineering”. But all of NSF will be affected and it’s easy to imagine that all of the NSF programs will tighten up a bit.

Congress passed just two out of eleven major spending bills last year — for military and domestic security. The rest were frozen at 2006 levels, an effective 4% reduction. The current Democratic-led congress has announced plans to extend the continuing resolution through the end of the 2007 fiscal year.