Hello there bloggies! Welcome to Science Sunday! And thank you for bearing with my 1 week break from the blog!
Here on Science Sunday, I don’t like to talk about politics much, but sometimes the worlds of science and politics collide. Sometimes, the meeting of these worlds is positive like the Precision Medicine Initiative here in the United States (here’s a past blog post on the initiative here). Other times, science and politics can prove to be a dangerous mix like in the genetically modified organism or vaccines causing autism discussions. Btw, if anyone is still wondering, vaccines do not cause autism. Thank you.
Now back to the topic at hand. Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing one of these unpleasant meetings of science and politics here in the United States. We are nearing the end of the federal budget year. The US Congress has not been able to pass a new budget for the next fiscal year. That means that, unless the two chambers of Congress (along with the President) can work together to pass a new budget, on October 1st the federal government will shut down. Essential government work will continue, but massive chunks of the federal government’s workforce will essentially stop working.
The inability of Congress to fund the government is an obvious example of the US government failing to achieve one of its main tasks and the polarization of the political system. But, what does it mean for science?
A number of federal agencies directly perform or directly fund basic, translation, and clinical research. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA..btw the lunar eclipse!!), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) all perform fantastic research. Without a budget, these agencies will have to largely shut down their research program. Essential work like the acute clinical care of patients at NIH will continue, but a large chunk of the workforce will be furloughed. Projects that have taken years of work and millions of dollars will be delayed and thrown off track. One can even imagine that some will have to be reworked entirely. That doesn’t sound like an efficient use of taxpayer dollars, Congress. No matter what sound bites you use on TV.
Now, you may think that only federal agencies will be affected by a shutdown, and that would be fairly accurate for day-to-day operations in most scientific research. However, many academic and industrial researchers receive funding from federal agencies. If these agencies are forced to close for political showmanship, then funding decisions, planning for new funding programs, and any other funding policy administration will be delayed, revised, or even rejected.
A government shutdown has no winners, especially in the science world. Research endeavors vital to the country and to the science community. Congress, please get your act together and pass funding for the federal government. Science will be grateful for you fulfilling one of your primary duties.
What do you think of the possible government shutdown? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @DrFsThoughts. Hopefully, we’ll avoid a shutdown this time!
See you all on Trainee Tuesday!!