With the impact of up to 10 percent budget cuts looming for the so-called sequestration, many people are wondering what impact this will have on their lives and the lives of Americans in general.
These budget cuts were designed to be so severe and hurtful, that they would force Congress to avoid such cuts and work together. However, here we are just a day away from automatic cuts across the board from taking effect.
I am a professor at BSU and have a research program involving Alzheimer's disease. Like the majority of other scientists across the USA, most of us rely heavily on either National Institutes of Health or National Science Foundation grants to fund our research. More than 80 percent of these dollars are competitively awarded to universities, academic medical centers and small businesses throughout the nation to ensure our leadership in a global marketplace.
For example, I have a multiyear NIH grant pending that if granted will be used to pay for under- and graduate students stipends, equipment and supplies in order to fulfill the aims of my proposal. My fear is that despite a fundable score in normal times, my grant will not be funded and I will have to shutter my lab doors.
No longer would I be able to provide this invaluable research experience to my students and to make positive contributions to a disease I care deeply about. My lab would be just one of more than 2,000 grants that would not be funded by NIH in this year alone if an across-the-board cut to 7 percent to 9 percent would occur.
At the moment, most NIH agencies are only funding grants that score in the top 92 percentile. This is unheard of, and many scientists across the nation fear this may have catastrophic effects to basic research in our country.
This is just one example of how these blunt cuts will impact not just our military, our schools, our economy, but our leadership standing in the world in terms of research and discovery. Many scientists are worried not only about their future funding needs, but the fact that their budgets may be slashed upward of 50 percent if sequestration occurs. As one scientist put it "these are terrible times for science in the USA." Or, as another scientist recently posted on a blog, "it's the worse time to be a university scientist in the past half century. I no longer can, in good conscious, recommend this career path to any of my grad students or postdoctoral fellows."
It is clear that if sequestration occurs morale will likely suffer among researchers and students may be dissuaded from entering the profession at all.
It is not just NIH and NSF that would feel the squeeze of sequestration, but many other U.S. government science funded programs including the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, NASA, the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey to name just a few.
In short, a budget sequester would have a terrible short- and long-term impact on the nation's investments in scientific research and education, investments that are essential for long-term economic growth and prosperity.
President Obama spoke about sequester in his State of the Union speech and reiterated the importance of investing in research. Yet despite these words, neither his administration nor Congress appear serious about averting this crisis. What is it going to take to get our officials in Washington to work together?
Please, I urge all citizens to contact our representatives in Congress and to let them know the negative impact that these automatic cuts will have.
Dr. Troy Rohn is a professor at Boise State University.