Thursday, February 05, 2009


I just don't believe it. The "moderate" senators trying to whittle down the stimulus package to avoid a filibuster in the Senate really are suggesting that NSF funding be cut, presumably b/c of the silly porn-viewing incident.

UPDATE: Whew. Thanks in part to hard lobbying by a large number of scientists and engineers, especially the folks at Sciencedebate 2008, the Senate compromise version of the stimulus package was not eviscerated of support for science. It is interesting to note, though, that the NIH will get a boost that exceeds the NSF's entire budget.


Anonymous said...

Who could have predicted that Democrats would continue to disappoint and Republicans continue to be crazy?

Doug Natelson said...

Anon. - "No one could have foreseen...." I really do think that investing in science research is a stimulus, as I've said here. I'd also be more sanguine about this if I thought that either party was truly serious about including NSF/DOE/NIST/NIH research boosts in the ordinary appropriations process. Three years of continuing resolutions and an effective ~ 10% cut have honed my cynicism.

Massimo (formerly known as Okham) said...

It actually goes beyond NSF funding... in his latest editorials (e.g., today's), Paul Krugman laments the fact that the stimulus package does not go far enough, and by insisting with pandering to the republican minority Obama may be doing a disservice...

Uncle Al said...

There are no more than 200,000 academic and industrial chemists and physicists below the age of 40 in the US. Each gets $500K to be spent on research only (or get 20 years in prison). That's $100 billion - the admitted pork in the next insane bailout. Any excess goes back.

The cost of cumshaw, baksheesh, and mordida would profoundly alter civilization long term, massively boost the economy short term, and have ~$zero administrative costs. The other $700 billion to be allocated won't do anything other than disappear.

gs said...

I still think the NSF porn kerfluffle has the ring of coincidence wrt to the proposed cuts. Afaik neither Nelson's Nebraska nor Collins' Maine receives major research funding. That has the ring of causality.

Collins and Nelson might live to personally benefit from NIH research. It's less likely that they will see the practical applications of new basic research in the physical sciences. I doubt that they phrase the matter so crassly even in private, but...

Doug Natelson said...

gs - As a colleague of mine once said in regard to Congress' willingness to fund NIH at a much higher level than NSF: "Congressmen and Senators all have breasts and/or a prostate."

Uncle Al said...

$200 million for National Science Foundation
$1 billion for Head Start/Early Start
$600 million for Title I (No Child Left Behind)
$16 billion for school construction
$3.5 billion for higher education construction
$2.25 billion for Neighborhood Stabilization
$1.2 billion for retrofitting Project 8 housing
$98 million for school nutrition

What kind of world is it wherein the Officially Sad must pay for what the productive receive for full price plus taxes? A just and proper world.

Aaron said...

I wonder why all of this science funding needs to be in a stimulus bill when it really belongs in the federal budget. With how exclusive and demanding (educationally) the sciences are, I fail to see how this spending will create new jobs that can be filled by the people losing theirs. While science funding should influence the economy in the long-term, I really don't think the blue collar worker in Detroit will care about that when he/she is told the only avaiable job to him/her is as a lab tech that requires a bachelors degree in a scientific field.

I really think we need to put less focus on what ends up in this stimulus bill and start demanding that Congress pass a real federal budget. Such a budget could include any of the science spending cut out of the stimulus as well as the educational funding that will be necessary to produce a scientifically competent workforce.

Another option would be to split the stimulus bill up into two bills. One focused on short-term economic stimulus and one on long-term stimulus. It might expediate a bipartisan short-term stimulus to be passed while the "wasteful spending" can be properly debated in the second, long-term stimulus bill.

Doug Natelson said...

Hey Aaron. I understand your point, and I agree that we need to start passing real appropriations bills, not continuing resolutions.

Still, if the government is serious about working on infrastructure and work force development for Big Problems (e.g., new energy; a new electrical grid; a technologically innovative workforce that can create or work in start-up companies), there are much worse things to do than support science and engineering research. One can also argue that the NSF, DOE, and NIH already have ranked, reviewed projects ready to go - you can boost NIH R01 funding rates from 10% to 15% and still only be funding the best-of-the-best proposals.

The best long-term solution is for there to be a healthy mix of sustained government and private investment in basic research. I agree that it's unclear how we get from here to there.