Scientists Worry National Spending Changes Might Stop Discovery and Development

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Legislators in Washington have until the end of September to finalize the budget and spending plans or the federal government risks a shutdown. While this affects a wide range of programs and people, the science community faces additional financial fears due to President Donald J. Trump’s prior actions against scientific groups, research, and development. Both NASA and the National Science Federation (NSF) wait nervously to see the outcome of the budgetary talks.

The differences in opinion between members of the House of Representatives and the Senate demonstrate a massive rift in proposed spending. NASA is facing a decision that may boost their science funding by $94 billion or reduce it by $193 million, but earmark that money for Earth sciences instead of planetary science. The government is considering similar budget changes to that branch.

The Department of Energy (DOE) program called the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy has been producing minimal results for its eight-year lifespan. This leads the House to suggest using the leftover money from 2017 to shut the program down. The Senate wants to push a $330 million boost in funding instead. Most of the disagreement stems from ITER, a collaboration with various European agencies over nuclear fusion energy production.

One of the largest discrepancies in federal budgetary spending for science is for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Disagreements about climate change and associated weather trends may contribute to the issue. The Senate earmarks $5.6 billion for NOAA while the House reduces it to just $5 billion. Both of these are down from the $5.7 billion it had in 2017.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will not receive money for new research ships unless the Senate approves the $105 million price tag. Other organizations in the science industry, such as the National Institute of Health (NIH) have not been discussed yet. This is one area where both branches of the government tend to agree more than normal, so higher funding is likely.