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NSF's Ambitious Plans Outpace Budget Hikes

David Sanchez presides over a $600 million budget as assistant National Science Foundation director for the mathematical and physical sciences. But even with steady growth each year in that budget, he says he's hard-pressed to find the money next year to continue work on, among other projects, a $211 million laser interferometer gravity wave observatory (LIGO), a $192 million eight-meter telescope, and a $120 million high magnetic field laboratory. "If we put in much less than what the proje

Jeffrey Mervis
David Sanchez presides over a $600 million budget as assistant National Science Foundation director for the mathematical and physical sciences. But even with steady growth each year in that budget, he says he's hard-pressed to find the money next year to continue work on, among other projects, a $211 million laser interferometer gravity wave observatory (LIGO), a $192 million eight-meter telescope, and a $120 million high magnetic field laboratory.

"If we put in much less than what the project really needs, then all we're really doing is stretching out its eventual cost," he says. "And that makes it vulnerable to an even bigger hit down the road. By slowing down the funding, you're also hurting the science. But with future budgets likely to increase by no more than 5 percent or so, these projects are really imposing some heavy mortgages on us."

Not all projects can be stretched to accommodate...

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