White House’s proposed budget targets science

Since the November presidential election, the science community has anxiously worried about the fate of programs and agencies that support and conduct research in the sciences. President Trump’s proposed budget, released this week, offers little reassurance and is already generating a flurry of news stories and commentary.

According to a March 16 New York Times story, the proposed budget “took direct aim at basic scientific and medical research.” While this was anticipated, the story noted that “the extent of the cuts in the proposed budget unveiled early Thursday shocked scientists, researchers and program administrators.” It stated:

“The reductions include $5.8 billion, or 18 percent, from the National Institutes of Health, which fund thousands of researchers working on cancer and other diseases, and $900 million, or a little less than 20 percent, from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which funds the national laboratories, considered among the crown jewels of basic research in the world.”

The story noted that the budget reflects an effort to zero-out funding for all climate change research, including within the EPA.

The budget must be passed by Congress and will, as is always the case, undergo significant changes. Indeed, some proposed cuts are already being deemed “non-starters” by several Republican leaders in Congress, particularly cuts to medical research.

Not all agencies are affected equally. Several websites and science advocacy organizations noted that the National Science Foundation was not mentioned in the White House’s budget. “Given the cuts seen for many other federal science agencies…some have seen the omission in the budget outline released today as a blessing,” observed the SAGE-sponsored website, Social Science Space.

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