eating the seed corn

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Old Rocks, Apr 6, 2011.

  1. Old Rocks

    Old Rocks Diamond Member

    Oct 31, 2008
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    Portland, Ore.
    We are in competition with India, China, the EU, and Japan. Can we afford this?

    US physics feels the squeeze - Global Warming and Nature - AOL Message Boards

    Obama's pro-science 2012 budget hides some bitter pills for physical scientists.

    Eugenie Samuel Reich

    The Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility is to close, a victim of the shrinking US science budget.Oak Ridge Natl Lab., DOEJoseph Bisognano sounds strained as he describes his current task: laying off 13 of the 40 staff members at the Synchrotron Radiation Center that he directs at the University of WisconsinMadison.

    The facility produces infrared and ultra-violet photons that some 300 scientists use each year to study the structure of materials, including semiconductors and high-temperature superconductors. "Our last peer review said it would be a terrible mistake if we were closed," says Bisognano. But the National Science Foundation (NSF) had to trim its instrument and facilities budget by 15%, so it opted to cut funding for the centre in the 2012 budget, making it likely that more lay-offs will follow.

    The difficult call in Wisconsin provides a visceral glimpse of how restricted budgets are starting to squeeze some areas of the physical sciences in the United States. Although Congress and President Barack Obama have yet to agree on a final 2011 budget, stop-gap spending bills have forced the NSF and other agencies to start cutting programmes. And the president's proposal for a fiscal year 2012 budget reflects continuing pressure to cut spending. It does request solid increases for key agencies, with large boosts in energy research, but those increases are likely to be scaled back or reversed in Congress. Even as it stands, the 2012 budget is forcing agencies to terminate mature scientific initiatives to make way for new ones.

    That will undermine US supremacy in some areas of physics, warn researchers. And they complain that, in some cases, cuts have been made without consulting the scientific community. For example, the budget proposes to shutter operations at the Holifield Radio-active Ion Beam Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, saving US$10.3 million a year. Timothy Hallman, associate director for nuclear physics at the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Science, acknowledges that the decision was not put to the department's nuclear-science advisory committee, saying the department had to act quickly

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