A clean debt-limit bill from the House….

Very good news from the House side this morning. Wiser heads are finally prevailing it seems. My sincere hope is that the political dysfunction which as afflicted Washington over the past three years will taper (perhaps in parallel with the Fed’s taper of QE).

What does this mean for US science funding? It means that we avoid more of the brinksmanship and disruption that have distracted us from the primary goals of advancing knowledge and investing in America’s future.

The inside skinny on sequestration and science funding…

From ScienceInsider, here. The key point is that agencies will have a heterogenous response to the cuts depending on how their accounting is handled within the overall Federal budget–bottom-line: NIH seems to have greater flexibility than NSF.

Nature Magazine has an earlier analysis of the situation here.

For the true wonks among us, you’ll want to dive into the exhaustive OMB analysis here.

Happy New Year…Science not off the Hook

Happy 2013. The Fiscal Cliff compromise that was passed by Congress last night mainly addressed the tax (revenue) side of the fiscal debate between the Democrats and the GOP. The spending side of that debate was put of for a bit…as things stand science funding still will get axed across the board two months from now. With the tax leverage gone, the remaining hope is that somehow the NIH and NSF will get bundled into the debate over DOD such that they are all protected against across the board, mindless cuts. I’m not optimistic on that one, although historically NIH and NSF have enjoyed bipartisan support.

In the meantime, the notion of the need to prudently invest in science–as well as cut back generally–doesn’t seem to be out there as an argument.

Next up however is the second debt-ceiling debate. The House GOP members say they intend to use the debt limit as leverage to get more cuts. My economist colleagues tell me that is playing with fire.

The trouble with Italian science support….

The interview with Italy’s new science minister, Fracesco Profumo is at ScienceInsider, here.

The quote from his which best captures the essence of the problem (although not the way I suspect he intended) is here:

We contributed 15% to the cost of Framework Programme 7, the predecessor to Horizon 2020, but we received only 8.5% of the funding in return—in other words, we lost about €500 million per year. Those are worrisome data.

He then, to be sure, goes on to suggest that Italy needs to submit better proposals.

Lame Duck Congress Science Action

From ScienceInsider here. The article correctly raises the point of how relevant the America COMPETES act will be since it doesn’t actually appropriate any monies. In the meantime we read of draconian cuts in the UK science budget–foreshadowing the future here in the US?

I think the real issue in terms of science funding is whether we view it as a national security investment (I do) or whether we view it as a budget-buster. The key argument to make to the incoming Congress is that national security investments into science can help the economy, create jobs and enhance our national security and that the real issue with regards to deficits is entitlement reform.

Thoughts on double-dip

First a caveat–the view from Nelson County Virginia is never great. Not talking about the mountain views, we can see sixty miles up the Valley from here. Looking out of our windows is a major recreation while we’re here. Rather, the Recession only exacerbated what was already a very difficult economy locally. Other than Wintergreen Ski Resort, there’s not a lot of money pouring into this corner of the Blue Ridge–ever.

I brought the Financial Times from Washington and reading it, this afternoon, listening to Miles Davis with the windows wide open to mid-sixty degree temperatures and blue skies, provokes cognitive dissonance. A consensus seems to be developing that the the global economy isn’t going to improve substantively anytime soon.

This outcome, if true, would have major consequences for science funding around the globe. Certainly here in the U.S., it might coincide with the ending of ARRA (Recovery Act) grants to create something of a perfect storm.

On the other hand, my state, the Commonwealth of Virginia, is projected to have ended the fiscal year with a surplus!

So it’s difficult to read the tea leaves.