Sequester Strains Science Researchers

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Inside Higher Ed

By: Michael Stratford

The billions of dollars in cuts to federal research funding earlier this year are prompting science researchers across the country to lay off researchers, close laboratories and scramble to find other sources of funding.

Researchers said the budget cuts, caused by across-the-board reductions known as sequestration, are threatening important scientific investigations and pushing young scientists out of the field. Those worries are compounded by the uncertainty of how much money will be available for research in the coming fiscal year, which could bring even deeper cuts.

Already this year, the dire warnings from research officials and higher education advocates about what sequestration would mean for research are beginning to play out. More than half of researchers who responded to a recent survey by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology said they either had laid off or expected to lay off researchers as the result of declining federal science funding. Large majorities of survey respondents also said they had seen their grant money decrease, experienced difficulty in obtaining new funding, and spent increasingly more time writing grant applications.

Sequestration this year cut the National Institutes of Health’s budget by $1.55 billion, forcing the agency to fund 703 fewer competitive research grants than it did in 2012.

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