by IRRI Images
It’s safe to say it’s been a pretty rough year for science agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH). First, squestration cut 5 percent of their budget since March, and now, with the federal government shutdown, the agency has gone into “sleep mode” — halting granting activity, furloughing 73 percent of its staff and turning away 200 patients, 30 of them children, seeking experimental treatments at the agency’s hospital, NIH Clinical Center. How will all of this impact research? In the weeks leading up to the start of the new fiscal year (October 1), NIH Director Francis Collins reached out through social media to take the pluse of scientists feeling the budget squeeze. His Twitter thread, #NIHSequesterImpact, garnered worldwide media attention and helped to raise awareness of the plight of those working in the life sciences.
Government support of basic research has been one of the greatest inventions of American culture. Now we are seeing the effects when government no longer supports it. It takes a certain kind of mind to even want to go into scientific research.
But at least if you worked really hard, got some grants and followed the path, you could have a sustainable career.
Getting grants has gotten much harder the last few years. The odds of getting funded have dropped substantially.
Now that certain kind can keep trying to find ways to get supported but, when the government pretty much shuts off the tap, those really bright, young scientists (graduate students and post-docs will go before professors) will begin searching for someplace else that is more sustainable.
We are destroying a generation of researchers, watching as many of the best simply move elsewhere. In the future, when people complain about how China or Europe or even Brazil are doing more science than we are, I will remember this time.