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Feb 6 / Dave Schumaker

The Economic Stimulus Bill and NSF Funding

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So I’ve been having some interesting debates with my two roommates the past few days over the proposed cuts that Senators Susan Collins and Ben Nelson are tossing around for the economic stimulus package that the United States Congress has been working on. One of the issues that seems to have everyone in the science world up in arms is cutting $1.4 billion dollars that was going to be given to the National Science Foundation.

There are a number of posts in the blogosphere in general (and even geoblogosphere) about it.

Science Progress sums up some of the proposed cuts in the bill:

* $6.6 billion in energy expenditures, including $1 billion from the Department of Energy’s energy efficiency and renewable energy programs

* $5.2 billion for prevention and wellness programs, which would save money by catching health problems early or keeping them from happening in the first place

* $1.4 billion in funds that were slated for the beleaguered National Science Foundation

I’m generally on the side of the NSF in this debate, especially since I’ve been a part of some cool research projects that were funded on their behalf. So I think it’s quite sad and frustrating that some senators would want to deny the organization additional funding.

However, this isn’t the end of the world. They still have funding and cutting the additional funding proposed in the stimulus package will not change the day to day operations of the NSF. Projects will still be funded and the NSF will still dole out their money in a highly efficient manner. Additional funding would be nice (one could argue that with additional funding, I might actually be able to get into a graduate program of my choice), but it isn’t a necessity for our economy right now.

I was laid off from my environmental consulting job in August and my unemployment insurance runs out in a few short weeks. I’m going to have to struggle to find a way to live on zero dollars. Funding the NSF (or a lot of these other longer-term projects) are not going to help my immediate situation.

Yes, science is important and we need to have a renewed emphasis on it. But a lot of people are treating the stimulus package as some sort of pay day – that we can fund all the programs we want right now with no accountability. That’s not the case, we need to fund programs and organizations that can help out people who are unemployed or facing dire economic circumstances right now. As much as I love the NSF, additional funding for them will not have an immediate or short term impact on our economy.

I really believe that additional science funding will come later. We have a pro-science President, and for the most part, a pro-science Congress. We can’t afford to be greedy right now when so much tax payer money and potential jobs and such are on the line.

Then again, there’s the whole other argument about tax cuts that many Republicans are proposing. That’s another ridiculous proposal – that’s really going to help me when I don’t even have income to pay taxes with!

Anyway, what are your thoughts regarding the stimulus package and NSF funding?

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