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Science Avoids Big Budget Cuts

Congress has passed a spending bill that spares some of the country’s biggest science agencies from the worst of the deficit-reduction measures.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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The CapitolJEF AKST

Last week (November 17), the US Congress passed a spending bill, subsequently approved by President Barack Obama, that designates modest increases in funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Nature reported.

While most are relieved that they avoided what could have been significant budget cuts, many of the funding levels still fall short of Obama’s request issued last February. The NSF, for example, gained an extra $200 million dollars over last year’s budget, bringing its total to just over $7 billion—$800 million less than Obama had originally asked for. The budget “lifts a huge cloud that was hanging over the agency and makes it into a much smaller one”, Michael Lubell, director of public affairs for the American...

Similarly, the spending bill allotted a $50-million increase to the FDA’s budget, “but we would like to have seen more,” David Plunkett, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group in DC, told Nature—along the lines of $183 million more to implement a food-safety law passed in January.

By the middle of next month, Congress must address other government branches not included in last week’s spending bill, including the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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