UPDATES

Good morning. First, briefly, we have a podcast of yesterday’s radio show here, a brand new book review of Scott’s Evolution vs. Creationism here, and a new Congo Memoir here.

The minimal funding levels for science in the currently debated bill have been replaced, owing to activities of Senators Nelso, Collins, Lieberman, Specter, Snowe and even Minority Leader Reid. The exact details of the bill are here.

Most of the changes are pretty spectacular. The NASA budget has shifted from 1.5 billion minus 750 million, but will now be cut by only 200 million. NSF, NOAA and other budgets have similarly been rethought. So cuts between 34 and 100 percent have been shifted mainly to cuts of about 15 percent.

From a ScienceDebate release:

This bill will be voted on by the full Senate on Monday. It could still fail then. But it reportedly has the strong support of President Obama, and if it passes it will form the (likely strongly prejudiced) basis for conference committee negotiations.

Let it be noted: Science Debate is made up of people of wide political diversity, and there are some of us who question whether research belongs in a stimulus package at all. Neither do we see Science Debate as a legislative advocacy initiative. However these are exceptional times with high stakes and there is no guarantee that the political appetite for new money will not be exhausted after this major package. Additionally, we believe scientific research is one of the best investments in stimulating economic growth in both the short and long term that this country can possibly make in a science-dominated global economy. Here are some ways these contemplated amounts are stimulative:

1. Literally ‘shovel ready’: the American Physical Society identified billions in ‘shovel ready’ science programs that include immediate construction items associated with science. So, much of what is being targeted as ‘research’ and therefore not stimulative, is in fact direct stimulus for construction and expenditures.

2. Stimulus money for federal science funding agencies will translate into support for thousands of graduate students and postdocs this year and next year, as faculty who get funded hire them. This is a good way to create high quality jobs right away and to invest in the future at the same time. NSF supports over 2,000 institutions and reaches nearly 200,000 researchers, postdoctoral fellows, trainees, teachers, and students every year.

3. Current economic conditions have hit the states particularly hard. Many are experiencing severe budget constraints and growing job losses. In many regions, universities and colleges are the main employer, and the source of economic growth in local and regional economies. Any additional funding targeted to NSF has an immediate and direct effect on high-quality jobs and economic growth across America.

4. A report, for example, from the Council for Chemical Research concludes that a federal investment of $1 billion in R&D funding in the chemical sciences can be leveraged into $40 billion in GNP and 600,000 jobs. NSF is the principal agency that supports research across all disciplines of science and engineering, including the chemical sciences.

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE:

From Shawn:

Quick followup -

Several people have emailed asking about the cuts to the proposed increases to DEO/Office of Science, and what about NIH, USGS and other agencies we didn’t mention. Some clarifications are in order.

1. These are NOT agencies’ existing budgets – this is about new money in addition to existing funding levels.

2. Science Debate only focused yesterday on the proposed CUTS to the INCREASES proposed in the original SENATE bill. So we didn’t mention NIH funding increases, for example, which the amendment left alone. Nor did we mention a $330M increase to DOE/Science, which the amendment left alone. So DOE/Science DID get new money in this bill.

3. But the plot thickens still. Nor did we focus on differences between the Senate bill and the House bill, of which there are many, because they were not at issue in yesterday’s negotiations. For example, the House bill provides a $2B increase for DEO/science, and the Senate bill as amended provides a $330M increase (after the $100M cut, which was for “Government-wide supercomputers”).

4. These differences will have to be worked out in conference committee as the House and Senate versions of the bill are brought into conformity. The reason this was still a victory for U.S. Science yesterday despite the disappointing DOE/Science supercomputer cut is because together we helped redeem $3B that was proposed to be cut. Had the bill gone in with science whacked it would have been much more difficult to make significant headway.

5. Anything can still happen. For example, DEO/Science could get the $2B in the House bill, the $330M in the Senate version, or some compromise in between – or even get whacked in conference, as could any of it.

The full picture of the House bill, Senate bill, and Amended Senate bill across all agencies are in this spreadsheet.

We encourage you to thank your Senators now, to express continued concern over DOE/Science, and to continue to monitor the situation and contact members of the conference committee in the coming week to express your views.

BTW, Science Debate just got 501 status, so if you want to give them money they are ready for you! Science Debate is here on the internet, and you can shovel money into their coffers here.