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As has been mentioned in various earlier posts, there is a lot of excitement about the stimulus package (aka the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) passed into law last month, and the new funds that are being made available for scientific research as a result.  It’s a substantial sum of money, in the billions of dollars — you can read a description here of what funds have been distributed where for science.  By my reading, the Department of Energy Office of Science is getting an additional $1.6B, and the National Science Foundation is getting$2.5B into its “research and related activities” account.  (These two agencies provide the great bulk of support for particle physics research in the US.)  Now the big question: how exactly will that money be distributed?
Rejected proposals that were rated as stronger than the average accepted proposal requested a total of $1.8B. “Over the last ten years, NSF’s capacity to fund these highly rated proposals has diminished. In FY 1997, the ratio of awards to highly rated declines was 5:1; in FY 2007, that ratio had dropped to less than 2:1. NSF is thus supporting a smaller proportion of potentially fundable proposals. These declined proposals represent a rich portfolio of unfunded opportunities, proposals that if funded may have produced substantial research and education benefits.”$2.5B will go a long way towards clearing this backlog.  Our shovels are ready.