I Could Be Wrong about the Short-term Stimulus for Science

People expressed a healthy skepticism to my assertion that money for science in the economic stimulus package is not the best way to fund science and may do more harm than good.  One of my assumptions in that argument was that this funding would be short-term and not followed through with further increases.

Nature has more on the stimulus package suggesting that it may be more long-term:

Robert Berdahl, president of the Association of American Universities (AAU) in Washington DC, said the bill represents a solid endorsement of the scientific community's argument that investing in research and education provides jobs while laying the foundation for a cleaner, more competitive economy. The trick, he says, will be getting the bill through Congress and then sustaining the funding into the future.

"A one-time spike in funding ... would create real problems down the road, in part because the research grants are generally three-year proposals," he says. "We hope that this gets built into the base and that it is essentially front loading some of the increases that are planned for 2010 and beyond." President-elect Barack Obama is scheduled to present his proposed budget for agencies for fiscal year 2010 in early February.  (Emphasis mine.)

Some in Congress see it as a long-term commitment as well:

Most of the stimulus spending would extend over two years, although
the bill includes language indicating that money for peer-reviewed
grants must be spent within 120 days, which could limit the money to
grant proposals already in the pipeline. Report language accompanying
the bill indicates that additional funds will be provided to the NIH in
fiscal 2010, suggesting that Democratic leaders see this as more than a
one-time infusion of cash.

Michael Lubell, director of public
affairs at the American Physical Society in Washington DC, said Obama's
transition team wanted to avoid making long-term commitments in the
stimulus package. "But they may have made a decision that they will put
money into the stimulus and use that as part of the base programming
for the future," he says. "We'll have to see."  (Emphasis mine.)

We will have to see. 

I
hope upon hope that this stimulus package represents the beginning of a
continuing commitment to science, but I am afraid of how short-sighted
Congress can be.  We are facing budget deficits as far as the eye can
see.  We'll see whether Congress prioritizes science in such an
environment.

And I still think that funding NIH in a decade long, yearly percentage plus inflation manner is a better way to go.

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And I still think that funding NIH in a decade long, yearly percentage plus inflation manner is a better way to go.

I agree. Unfortunately, the annual appropriation process makes this completely impossible.

There can develop a positive feedback loop of a loopy policy and scientists willing to support it. Counter productive and truely massive funding can result. Global warming comes to mind. StatMan

By Stan Young (not verified) on 20 Jan 2009 #permalink