The final fiscal year 2013 (FY13) Continuing Resolution (CR) which will fund the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year passed the House and the Senate and is awaiting President Obama’s signature. In the wake of the sequester and continued fiscal tightening, federally supported physical sciences basic and applied research is at its lowest level since 2002 – approximately $5.5B. The $5.5B reflects ~$500M less in federal funding of physical sciences research compared to FY12, and ~$1.1B less than in FY10.
Now that the final appropriations are known (President Obama is expected to sign them), the question is, what affect will the cuts have? The National Science Foundation (NSF) is already at historic lows for grant success rates, and although NSF will receive less of a cut compared to other areas of government, researchers will have an even more difficult time securing funding. In a letter to Senate Appropriations Chair Sen. Barbara Mikulski, NSF director Subra Suresh said he expects NSF will have to award 1,000 fewer grants each year.
The effect on national labs will be felt throughout the research community. Reduced operating time at research facilities coupled with furloughed national lab employees will make doing good science an increasingly far-off goal in a nation that has been steadily losing its appetite for “big science” in the last few decades.
So, what can we do now?
FY13 is now “in the books,” but the FY14 appropriations process is under way. During the next week, take two minutes to call your senator’s or representative’s office. Give them a few examples of how important federally funded scientific research is and ask them to support future research by restoring the funding to federal science agencies in FY14. Let them know that, as a nation, we must undergo some fiscal “belt-tightening,” but cutting funding to the primary driver of economic growth is not the right path to fiscal solvency. We need to let them know that federal spending in scientific research pays off many times over, and that science is one investment we must make.