Tough Times for Science Funding

This is shaping up to be a busy week with federal budget issues, with the 2012 budget being put together, and next week’s deadline for the deficit reduction supercommittee to come to a consensus about how to find a way to cut the budget by $1.5 trillion. Science has had some good coverage of how this is going to relate to science spending both in the News Focus section last week’s issue and on the ScienceInsider blog.

The National Science Foundation managed to come out a little better than might have been expected, with the 2012 budget increasing 2.5% to $7.03 billion, reflecting a bipartisan support for basic research. Similarly the HouseĀ  Science, Space and Technology Committee recommended that the NSF be spared from major cuts as part of deficit reduction plans. Despite this seemingly positive support, times are still likely to be difficult with the NSF and National Institutes of Health both looking for ways to stretch limited resources further.

Things are even more difficult for science in fields that are more politically controversial. The department of Energy is facing cuts in both developing green energy and to the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which have been criticized by Republicans as focusing too much on work that could be accomplished by the private sector. The recommendations to the deficit panel instead suggested the Office of Science be the focus of the DOE due to the more basic research being done through that office. Similar political controversy seems to have cost NOAA funding for a unified Climate Service program, though it did get an increase in funding for new satellites. This increase is smaller than was requested and may result in gaps in data collection and cuts to other NOAA programs.

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy also saw a large cut in its 2012 budget. These cuts are in response to the OSTP violating a law that prohibited collaborations with China in some fields.

While some areas of science seems to have come off a less worse off than other parts of the Federal government, funding will remain tight, and likely to be even tighter if more general cuts kick in without a deficit reduction agreement.


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