Sep 28, 2008
By David Bruggeman, Prometheus - The Science Policy Blog
Both NPR and Congressional Quarterly are reporting that amidst all of the financial bailout negotiations, Congress today did clear a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government until early March 2009. This marks the third consecutive fiscal year (which starts October 1) in which the Congress has failed to pass even a majority of its appropriations bills before the start of that fiscal year. This is just one reason why their approval rating is lower than the President’s.
This professional incompetence is both not surprising and a bad sign for any programs depending on consistent funding - whether that funding is constant or promised with a constant rate of growth. I think research communities need to seriously consider finding alternative sources of funding. Independent of the twin fiscal drains of war and bailouts (the auto industry got $25 billion today), federal funding can no longer be counted on, even at the more meager levels. The biomedical community completely failed to manage its wealth of riches when the NIH budget was doubled, and they have too many students and too many researchers landing hard. I am concerned that all research communities in this country will be neither ready nor able to handle a decrease in resources. We’ve just been on the gravy train too long to see it crashing into the painted hole in the rock.
I’m afraid I can’t describe this in stark enough terms for people to act accordingly. If you thought science and technology were ignored before, get ready for fiscal apathy. If you think the expected crunch of the mid-90s following the Cold War was successfully avoided, consider the possibility that it was only delayed 15 years. To borrow climate science language - adaptation strategies are needed now that mitigation appears to be unsuccessful.