Up, up, and away

Jodi and I are off to Milwaukee, via Chicago, for the weekend.

For two hours this week, I had some peace. Flights have some practical uses; one is to firewall you from the nonsense so rampant in this world.

As Expected: Science Suffocation Proposals Continued/Expanded

As expected, and nicely summarized by the American Institute of Physics:

President Trump’s latest budget request largely repeats past proposals to sharply reduce funding for non-defense R&D programs across the federal government. However, it includes a stronger emphasis on research tied to the administration’s “Industries of the Future” focus areas, especially artificial intelligence and quantum information science.
— Read on www.aip.org/fyi/2020/trump-seeks-familiar-science-cuts-favors-‘future’-industries

Contempt for Science and Health in the FY2021 Budget Proposal

The Washington Post article below [1] is a nice summary of what is currently digested from the executive branch’s FY2021 federal budget proposal. That dropped yesterday. Specifically regarding agencies that fund basic, curiosity-driven science, these excerpts are indicative of the pattern of proposed effects:

The Energy Department would get a boost in funding for safeguarding the nuclear weapons stockpile, a core mission, but outside that program would see a 28.7 percent cut, including more than 1 billion cut from its $7 billion science program.

Zeroed out in the Trump budget is funding for a new space telescope, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, which is entering its construction phase. WFIRST would scrutinize planets orbiting distant stars and study the distribution of galaxies in an attempt to better understand the evolution of the universe. It remains a priority of the astronomy community and has survived two previous attempts by the administration to kill its funding.

Under the request, the National Science Foundation’s budget would shrink from $8.3 billion in 2020 to $7.7 billion in 2021, a cut of about 7 percent. The NSF funds basic research through grants to a wide variety of scientists and plays a major role in funneling money to programs that might not normally receive investment from the private sector. The Trump budget reduction would return NSF’s budget to close to the level it was in 2017.

(from Ref. 1)

The typical pattern in the proposal follows past efforts: fund defense and applied science, starve basic research, decapitate environmental science.

The proposal is likely dead on arrival, as have been past proposals from this president. It matters now what Congress decides to actually do to allocate the budget, especially since the president’s budget does not attempt to reign in the federal spending deficit in event the next decade.

[1] www.washingtonpost.com/science/trump-budget-cuts-funding-for-health-science-environment-agencies/2020/02/10/9c8dd784-4c2d-11ea-b721-9f4cdc90bc1c_story.html

Dead On Arrival

Summary of proposed vs. enacted spending on science agencies in FY2020. From Reference 1.

For almost four years, the executive branch of the United States government has been advocating steadily for a decline of science funding for the nation. In spite of this, the U.S. Congress has acted as a firewall against these requests, effectively making every budget request for cuts to scientific investment dead-on-arrival (with some notable exceptions, of course, in environmental science, where the executive branch has done serious damage aided by the Congress). In this post, I’ll focus on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, NASA Science, and the National Science Foundation, as these are the primary funders of non-applied, curiosity-driven science in the U.S. I realize I am leaving the National Institutes of Health (NIH) off of this (among others – see above); NIH’s scientific investment is geared toward actively improving human health, which while valuable definitely falls under the idea of “applied science”. Here, I want to focus on those agencies with the clearest pure-science missions, even if I certainly value human health.

Continue reading “Dead On Arrival”