Starts With A Bang

Cutting Science Funding Today Costs Us More Overall (Synopsis)

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan gives a thumbs-up as he addresses the annual National Republican Congressional Committee dinner in Washington, DC, March 21, 2017. Image credit: Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images.

“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” -Carl Sagan

The President of the United States just released his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, and there are some big losers in the scientific world. The EPA, the NIH, NASA Earth Science and many other organizations that exist for the benefit of America and all of humanity are poised to lose a significant amount of federal funding. This doesn’t simply affect the scientists who lose their jobs.

A significant fraction of the scientists and engineers pictured here, in the 2016 installation of the final mirrors, were replacement hires for the originals who were laid off five to six years prior. Image credit: NASA.

If we take as a given that the projects that these organizations invest in are vital at some level, and that they will need to be accomplished at some point, we’re actually making it far more expensive in the long run. The loss of expertise, the cessation of production and the exodus of the team that would provide scientific continuity are all extremely costly, and will make all of these projects cost us more than they would have overall. We saw this lesson firsthand just a few years ago with James Webb.

The 2010 NASA mission timeline had James Webb launching in 2015. If that were the case, and if insufficient funding were not provided during two critical years, we would have collected over a year’s worth of data from it already. Image credit: NASA’s Astrophysics Division.

Are we really willing to throw away so much money and time now just to shave a tiny bit off the deficit for the short-term?