Science Funding to be Slashed Under Stimulus "Compromise": Call Your Senators NOW!

TPM has a list of stimulus cuts that a group of senators led by Democrat Ben Nelson and Republican Susan Collins have proposed. The cuts are at 77.9 billion and growing, and include a great deal of the science-related spending. On the chopping block:

  • 750 million - half the proposed increase - of funding for NASA exploration
  • 1.4 billion - from the NSF line. That's the entire proposed increase
  • 427 million - 1/3 of the proposal - from NOAA
  • 218 million - almost 40% - from NIST
  • 1 billion - 38% - from the DOE Energy Efficiency/Renewable Energy line
  • 100 million - from the DOE office of science line. That's the entire proposed increase.

In addition, the cuts include the vast bulk of the education funding.

I know I've been skeptical about the stimulatory effects of some of this funding, but it clearly would have some beneficial effect - and it would certainly have more of an effect than not spending that money would.

Missing from the cuts proposed by the moderates is anything at all from the "tax relief" provisions added to soothe the feelings of the Republicans that are voting against the bill anyway.

And here's the kicker:

Just yesterday, we learned that the treasury overpaid banks to the tune of 78 billion dollars under the TARP Program.

Please - contact your Senators, and contact them now. This could be voted on by the end of the day today, and will almost certainly be voted on by Sunday. Tell them that if they want their 78 billion fracking dollars, they should go look at Wall Street, because that's where they threw it.

UPDATE: ScienceDebate2008's Shawn Otto just emailed out a list of suggestions and talking points. I'm pasting a copy below the fold.
One additional suggestion: SPREAD THE WORD. Pass the message on to as many of your colleagues as you can - particularly to those who don't read blogs.

from Shawn Otto - ScienceDebate2008 team
date Fri, Feb 6, 2009 at 9:44 AM
subject Science funding followup: what to do
Several people have emailed suggestions I will share with everyone:
1. WHAT TO DO: call and email your two U.S. senators. Contact from a constituent on a wonky issue like this will have enormous influence. Calling is better than email, but do both if you can.
Go here to find your Senator, and select your state in the drop down box in the upper right hand corner:
Tell them in your own words to reject the reduction
effort in the stimulus bill led by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) when it comes to science.
Note that most Senator's web pages contain a form (e.g. - CONTACT ME) that you can fill out to contact the Senator. Also, use your own words since identical
messages get rejected by the Senators' staff. You can adapt language from my previous email or from below, but be sure to personalize it.
A) Science & technology have produced half of the economic growth of the United States since WWII.
B) Spending on basic research is the single greatest economic engine this country has ever known.
C) Funding to federal granting agencies is about as "shovel-ready" a stimulus as you can get. If the granting agencies lower their score thresholds for awards across the board the money will be flowing within months, leading to rapid hiring and increased purchasing from technical service and supply companies that are largely American, and creating thousands of the kinds of high-quality jobs the country needs.

11 responses so far

  • John says:

    Actually, NSF was slated to receive $2.5 billion in the House bill. So, although $1.4 billion is a huge cut, it's not the entire amount.

  • roadmapthis says:

    NO MORE TAX CUTS .. I need a job ... what am I going to do with a tax cut

  • Zach says:

    $1.4 billion was the entire amount the NSF was allocated in the Senate bill; you can find the text of the draft bill at the Appropriations Committee website:
    The House bill as passed gives $3B to NSF (2.5B for grants, 0.1B for operations, 0.4B for new facilities); the full text of the bill is here:
    $1.4B is the total amount allocated to NSF; if the bill is passed as it stands the $1.4/$3B disagreement would be compromised in conference.

  • Joe Shelby says:

    another talking point - the grants don't stay in the beltway. grants issued by the NSF go to corporations out there in various senators' states, and also to the universities and engineering schools in those states.
    now in this, Pure Pedantry does have a point that a short-term boost in funding that increases the # of grad student projects at schools may be a problem later when the funding is gone but they still have those students to pay for...

  • QA's Mom says:

    The most effective things to impact any elected official's thinking are well thought out letters via snail mail and visits to their local offices.
    The more time you put into doing something the more serious the pols take it.
    Email and phone campaigns are great and when the decision is going to be made quickly they're critical - but they can be easily organized and pols know that.
    Back when I worked for a (to-remain-nameless) elected official the medium of correspondence actually was weighted
    So a visit by unpaid citizens was considered to be equal to 10 phone calls --- and a non-form letter equaled 15.
    Generally letters have to be answered which usually means someone has to read it and hopefully think about it. Emails -- especially when they all have the same topic may only be counted.
    Try to get the attention of a high placed aide. They are the ones that govern what your pol sees on his desk.
    And don't think that once this bill is signed everything is done -- continue to visit, write, and call. Right now these folks are being so bombarded from all directions that it's difficult for new ideas to get through - but when things are calmer, its a whole other story.
    And don't forget that most elected officials sincerely believed when they ran their first campaign that they were going to be public servants. Appealing to that original instinct is never a bad idea, no matter how far they've strayed from it.

  • Anne says:

    Of course science funding is important. But calling my representatives to rally for science funding as a general principle doesn't seem like a good idea at a time when the whole country is having to lean up. As people interested in science, we should be helping our elected representatives to decide which types of science we care about the most. Let's give them priority lists, not cries of unfairness when dollars are cut. Here, I'll start: I want science that shapes conservation priorities in whole-ecosystem terms. I want science that illuminates the wonder and diversity of creation. I want science that helps people learn to live in better stewardship of the living planet. In a time of belt-tightening, I definitely don't need science that is being done solely to satisfy the curiosity (or pride) of the scientist, even if that scientist is writing eloquent and compelling grant proposals. As a citizen of this country, I'm having to take an honest inventory of what matters. Why shouldn't science?

  • zombie_bot says:


  • Colin says:

    Anne - what evidence do you have that science is *ever* funded that is not of great relevance to its field? Do you really think millions of dollars are chucked about on a whim here?
    I believe you have mistaken science for banking.
    At the moment, only 9% of nsf grant proposals are granted. Each of these will have been through a huge number of revisions. They are sent back to the scientists with comments for amendments several times. The proposal in its accepted form always has huge cuts made.
    And NSF, or NIH or whomever have guidelines one what they will or will not fund. They have teams of scientists deciding what should be funded according to government guidelines.
    That is the *purpose* of the NSF.
    Under the Bush administration, agencies like NSF and NIMH were largely forbidden from funding basic research. They were told to fund 'translational' research, which basically means something you can sell very soon. Of course, that makes money in the short term, but in the long term, you run out out ideas because you are not doing any basic research, and hence 'tranlational' research grinds to a halt.
    So scientific community, which it has been pointed out above is critical to the nations economic and political success over the last 150 years, is already under great strain, young scientists find it hard to get jobs and established scientists find it hard to do their jobs.
    $1.4 billion to the NSF in the context of a $750 billion spending plan is an excellent investment just in terms of job creation, let alone the future of the US as a technological superpower.
    and please, don't refer to 'science' as some kind of monolith, and that 'science' should get its priorities straight.
    You're talking about individual jobs and careers in specialist fields that can and will be lost as a result of this funding reduction. (i.e. recent PhD graduates will not be able to find jobs as post-docs, because the salaries for those jobs all come from grants, and some kinds of professors could lose their jobs too). I wold say that for people who just spent nine years qualifying for a job, that having to abandon their lifelong career goals (which, by the way, involve only very modest salaries) would 'matter' very much.
    I suggest you read the original post again, carefully, and then read about how science funding and science careers actually work, how much we are paid, whether we ever really get to work on what we want to etc - and THEN come back and tell me that 'science should take an honest inventory of what mattters', as though every basic scientist in the land hasn't been doing just for the last 8 years.

  • zombie_bot says:

    science least of your concerns idiot americans

  • Anne says:

    Thanks for the discussion, Colin, but my opinion stands, and it's based in some exposure to the science culture. I'm a career science journalist, but in a past life I earned a graduate degree in biology. I saw enough to know sensationalism can creep into grant proposals just like it bleeds into newspaper headlines.
    "You're talking about individual jobs and careers in specialist fields that can and will be lost as a result of this funding reduction."
    1. My friends are losing jobs too. Newspapers are going down because the market is changing. Readers are demanding new types of service. Is that a bad thing? Maybe in the short term, and certainly for the individuals losing the jobs. But will it make American media stronger, more independent and more responsive? I hope so, and I think so.
    2. Human ambition is not always based in altruism; neither are the research agendas of all the science labs across the country. You can't tell me there's no room for improvement. And the sort of defensiveness you've displayed here will only slow the progress.

  • casey jane says:

    I am a science journalist as well--looking around at carnage everywhere is tough whether you are in journalism, music, finance, or whatever subject where the current business models is in flux. 'Journalism', no doubt, will pull through the economic crisis, as will 'scientific research', but we are in a time of change. So, we might have to be short-sighted for a while. It happens.
    The goals of journalism and science, as they relate to politics, will not change: journalism is necessary for people to make good decisions (democracy) while science is (among other things) necessary for advancements in technology (capitalism).
    What is atrocious is that in the past 8 years no one has payed attention to the potential of science to develop technology and benefit our economy in the long-run. It's one of the safest bets around.
    Though we are losing journalists by the tens of thousands, the landscape is more pliable since it is bound by information and not as much by money. The latest scientific progress requires expensive tools, but brings back a good return.