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Posts Tagged ‘budget cuts’

Hi, folks!

As many of you are undoubtedly aware, the U.S. federal government is in the midst of a budget crisis. The prevailing wisdom in Washington is that deficits are out of control and will soon bring America to ruin; therefore, drastic budget cuts are necessary to ensure the nation’s future health and prosperity. Okay. Let’s take for granted that this is true. Let’s also ignore the official policies and recent acts of Congress that fly in the face of fiscal responsibility. We should probably also narrow our vision to the short-term — say, the next two years — to avoid unpleasant long-term realities.

Still with me? 🙂

This is now: The FY 2011 budget proposed by Republicans and passed in the House of Representatives would cut non-defense discretionary spending by roughly $60 billion compared to current funding levels. Unfortunately, science funding takes a particularly hard hit:

– Environmental Protection Agency: -$1.6 billion

– Department of Energy loans: -$1.4 billion

– Office of Science: -$1.1 billion

– National Institute of Health: -$1 billion

– Energy efficiency and renewable energy: -$899 million

– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: -$755 million

– NASA: -$379 million

– National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: -$336 million

– National Institute of Standards and Technology: -$186 million

– National Science Foundation: -$139 million

Now, I am not an economist, but it seems clear that this is absolutely devastating. If the budget proposal is passed as-is, thousands of scientists will be laid off, operation of current experiments will be disrupted, and many new projects simply won’t receive funding. Cutting-edge research will be especially hurt — and yes, dear readers, that includes high-energy physics. (Recall the impending shutdown of Fermilab’s Tevatron, for lack of funding.) A wide swath of American scientific research will be stifled. Since basic research and resulting scientific innovations drive long-term economic growth, this is, at best, a short-sighted attempt at reducing our national debt. At worst, it is a self-destructive travesty of pandering and ineptitude that results when politics and reason become mutually exclusive.

I won’t force my position on this issue, but I will point you to a place where you can work the US budget out for yourself: http://public-consultation.org/exercise/. (See how easy public policy decision-making is when you aren’t beholden to the funders of your previous election campaign?) After that, perhaps you would be inclined to contact your elected officials to let them know what you think about all this: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml.

By any measure, science is an excellent investment in the long-term success of our nation. It should not be a political punching bag. Make some noise, folks! This is serious.

— Burton


A Breath of Relief

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Budget cuts in science unfortunately happen all over the world.
Over in Japan, we all got very worried last November, when the new government announced the intention to cut several science programs by 30-50% and even recommending termination for some. At IPMU, we all wrote letters to the Minister of Education, trying to explain how a big budget cut would endanger our new and so far very successful institute. We contacted colleagues and friends all over the world, asking them to write as well. Fortunately, the echo was very good. Very many scientists from abroad wrote to the minister. I don’t know the exact number, but the vast majority of the 900 letters sent in favor of the WPI program, of which we are part, were sent on behalf of IPMU!
This seems to have had an effect. The numbers for next year’s budget are out now. Several programs received severe cuts, but in the end, the existing WPI institutes (including IPMU) will be cut only by 3.6%. This is definitely a number we can live with! In the face of the overall negative climate towards science funding, we got away with only a scratch.
This doesn’t mean we can lean back now. The current decision only affects the next fiscal year, starting from April 2010. To get proper financial support also in the future, we have to keep doing a good job and keep convincing people that having an active, internationally visible research institute like IPMU is important both for Japanese science and Japan as a country. But the year begins well. Last week, the Vice Minister of Education visited IPMU, and next week, we will move into our fancy new building! Things are looking good, let’s keep our fingers crossed for the future!