Scientists and Budget Cuts (Spend more, but not as much as we thought?)
by Beverly Nuckols on November 13, 2010 at 12:10 PM
Science, is a weekly journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.The journal only allows non-subscribers to read an excerpt, but the AAAS report is available without subscription. In addition, the AAAS report has links to a memorandum from President Obama’s Science adviser, Peter Orzag (a pdf), advising “non-security agencies” within the government to ask for no more than 5% less than the “discretionary total provided for that agency for FY 2012 in the FY 2011 Budget.”
But note that these “cuts” are affect estimated budgets that have been bloated – even doubled: far beyond the growth in health care costs in the last 4 years. (from the AAAS page)
Some agencies, such as those authorized in the America COMPETES Act, could still see increases for 2012, although any gains would be reduced by 5% from previous estimates.
At the same time, Clemins said, the 2010 Republican Agenda, A Pledge to America, includes policy positions that could strongly affect R&D funding. The agenda includes a goal to cut discretionary nonmilitary spending to 2008 levels, Kenneth Chang of The New York Times reported.
“Under that plan,” the Times reported, “ research and development at nonmilitary agencies—including those that sponsor science and health research—would fall 12.3%, to $57.8 billion, from Mr. Obama’s request of $65.9 billion for fiscal year 2011.” [See the Times’ full story.]
If government spending is trimmed back to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels for 2011, Clemins said, federal R&D funding would drop by $8.1 billion, or 5.5%, compared with 2010 and by $8.5 billion (5.7%) compared with the president’s 2011 request, assuming 2008 R&D funding levels.(from the AAAS page)
Being semi-political as I am, though, the eye opener is the treatment in the Science “news” article. There, the authors admit that university faculty are liberal (!!!!) and that scientists may not always be as smart as they think they are (or at least, they don’t act as smart as they are). Retiring Republican Representative Vern Ehlers, a physicist and college professor from Michigan and Lobbyist Michael Lubbell, warn Science readers that,
“There is a new era here, and they should be getting to know the Republicans,” says Ehlers. “Scientists are making a big mistake if they think that they can hunker down and just wait for Democrats to reclaim the House. Most university faculty tend to be liberal and identify with Democrats. So they need to become more open-minded and stop ridiculing Republicans and start trying to work with them, they won’t be very effective.”
Lubell suspects that many scientists will have a hard time making those adjustments. “I spoke at a national lab before the election and asked them what plans they had made for reductions in federal support and for working with people who know nothing about science,” he says. “They were shocked. They didn’t believe me.”