Field of Science

Briefings: New Science Budget

Details on Obama's 2011 science budget are now available. The last issue of Nature has a run-down. The news is better than it could have been -- and certainly better than the disastrous Bush years.

Cancellation of the Constellation program (the replacement for the Shuttle) and the moon mission made the headlines, but despite that, NASA's budget will increase slightly. The end of the Constellation project would have seriously increased the amount available for science, but in fact a lot of the money budgeted for that will be spent stimulating the development of commercial rockets.

NIH is getting a $1 billion increase -- which only amounts to 3.2% because NIH is the biggest of the US science programs. Because the NIH received $10.4 billion in stimulus funds, the number of grants they will be able to give out in 2011 will fall considerably. One nice piece of news is that stipends for many NIH-supported doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows will rise, showing the administration's continued focus on supporting young scientists.

The DoE's budget is getting a significant boost of 7% to $28.4 billion, with money going to energy research and eveloment, nuclear weapons and physical sciences.

The NSF -- the smallest of the non-defense research programs but the one that funds me and most psycholinguists -- is getting a small hike up from $6.9 billion to $7.4 billion.

Most of what I've seen in the science press has been relative contentment with the budget, given that many other programs are being cut. That said, it's worth keeping in mind that the last decade saw the US losing steady ground to the rest of the world in science and technology; whether small increases will help remains to be seen.

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