Measured Against Reality

Friday, January 11, 2008

Help restore science funding

Via ZapperZ comes this fantastic form for contacting your congress-critters about the tragedy that is this year's science funding. It's done through the APS, so you might need to modify the text of the letters a bit (I changed "scientist" to "student of science", for example), but I highly recommend that you do this. Without funding, science will simply cease to happen, and that's something we cannot afford.

In case you're not familiar with the situation, in the recently-passed Omnibus Spending bill, there were severe cuts to science funding, especially at large facilities (such as Fermilab and SLAC). These large projects are crucial, and without them we lose competitive advantage to other countries as well as put good scientists (and post-docs, and grad students) out of work, and we also miss out on the opportunity to make new discoveries. Large projects are the future of physics, as we probe more deeply into the structure and composition of the universe, more expensive machines are simply a necessity.

Here's the text of the letter:

As a scientist, I write to draw your attention to the devastating blows basic research received in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2008. The funding levels for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy (DOE) in the bill will cause irreparable harm.

I urge you to rectify the damage by providing emergency supplemental appropriations for FY08 and sustaining the American Competitiveness Initiative in your FY09 request.

The cuts to our nation's scientific facilities and to university research force industry to look abroad for scientific talent and facilities; they tell students to avoid science and engineering fields or to pursue those fields abroad; and they lay off scientific staff whose expertise will be permanently lost.

For America's long-term economic prospects and our children's future, the 2008 budget ignores the urgent calls found in such reports as "Rising above the Gathering Storm" to address our competitiveness and innovation challenges. Instead of increasing the investments so critical to our innovation economy, the bill you signed into law has slashed vital fields of science.

Furthermore, as we as a nation strive to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, mitigate global warming and put a lid on escalating energy costs, the 2008 budget abandons the long-term transformational research that is necessary to achieve all these essential goals. The bill is bad for our energy future and economic future.

The White House and Congress both recognized the importance of basic research, particularly in the physical sciences, and incorporated increases for research funding at key agencies into their budgetary actions this past summer. The broadly supported increases acknowledge the strong connection between basic research and economic growth, a connection that other countries have also accepted and are acting upon vigorously.

The bipartisan support for such research, expressed in the America COMPETES Act, represents a strong federal commitment to the principle that science and technology are central to the future of our nation. However, such support is not represented in the final 2008 Budget.

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