The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

House/Senate Conference Restores Science in Stimulus

Reports today [1] indicated that the result of the House/Senate conference on the stimulus plan resulted in the re-introduction of the House science numbers into the bill. Whether it will pass on a second vote in the House and Senate is in question, but if it does it means $3B for the NSF and $1.6B for DOE Office of Science. These are TREMENDOUS numbers. More to the point, now the hard work begins.

If it passes, it means that this money is available for rapid spending on economic stimulus activity – construction, purchasing, renovation, etc. – until Sep. 30. That money is GONE after that. The hard work is to avoid a spike and a crash, if the FY09 and FY10 budgets tank for science. That would be a disaster, because if science has to spend, spend, spend, with the knowledge that come Oct. 1, 2009 the money is gone and there is no plan to move forward with the gains reaped from the stimulus, science will crash and burn AGAIN.

We have to look now to steady budgets, with growth projected to the needy periods and a leaning of the budget for the interim periods. People are the lifeblood of science, and when we spend on science we invest in people. But people also need to respect that growth is not unlimited (lest we repeat the same mistakes in science that led to dot-com bubbles and housing bubbles), and we have to plan for the fat and lean.