Government Shutdown Impact on Science Grows More Serious
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As the second government shutdown continues toward a fourth week, the impact on the nation's scientific research is becoming apparent. About $100-120 million in research grants by the National Science Foundation (NSF) have gone unmade since the shutdown began December 15, delaying the support of some 2,000 people to carry out research and education activities. This figure grows by about $10-12 million daily.
During the shutdown, the National Science Foundation (an independent federal agency charged with maintaining the health of all non-medical fields of science and science education) cannot process research grants or other awards to the more than 2,000 institutions it regularly supports. "The situation is beyond frustrating, " said NSF Director Neal Lane. "It is now endangering the nation's science research and education base, and many of the advances the nation has come to take for granted will be in peril soon if this budget impasse isn't resolved.
NSF's annual budget is about $3.2 billion annually. All but four percent is used for research and education awards made through competitive merit review. On an average day, NSF normally receives about 240 proposals for science and engineering research and education, and makes about 80 awards. Each day the shutdown continues represents lost or delayed support to some 200 people (scientists, engineers, students and teachers).
Dozens of proposal review panels, meetings, and workshops have already been cancelled or are threatened. Continuing grants that have expired (such as the second or third year of three-year grants) are not being paid; 156 such grants expired on December 31, and another 266 will expire on January 31. Major research institutions funded by NSF, such as astronomy observatories and science and technology centers, are facing payroll problems and deferral of their own contracts.
All of NSF's six research directorates--as well as the science education directorate, the science and technology centers program, the Antarctic research program and various interdisciplinary and interagency programs--have been affected by the shutdown.
Specific examples include:
"Researchers funded by NSF will have to find other funds to maintain their science projects, or close them down," said Lane. "The quality operations for which NSF is frequently praised are in danger of being compromised; and, if the shutdown continues, we may have to prioritize activities for the rest of this fiscal year. In this already tough budget environment, such a prospect is very disheartening. I am anxious for a resolution to the budget impasse, so that we can return to the business of ensuring a healthy and productive future for coming generations."
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
Useful NSF Web Sites: