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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
- About Us
Science and the Shutdown: 11 Days and Counting
11 October 2013 5:15 pm
ScienceInsider has been tracking the partial U.S. government shutdown since it began 11 days ago. Member of Congress and President Barack Obama are now discussing a way out of the impasse.
For some scientists, it’s too little, too late. Their research has already been disrupted. For others, however, the crisis has yet to hit home.
So who’s still working—and who’s been hit the hardest?
The day after the shutdown, grantmaking at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) ground to a halt. Essential scientists still on the job included a D.C. bird identification expert, physicists maintaining the cesium fountain clock that keeps official U.S. time, and an immunologist tending 14,000 mice at the National Cancer Institute.
Although most NSF activities were immediately suspended after the shutdown began, certain programs (including Antarctic research) had some leeway to continue operating using leftover funds from 2013. But now the clock is winding down, and NSF will have to close its research programs in Antarctica if the U.S. government shutdown continues beyond 14 October. Also on the chopping block are several major NSF-funded construction projects, including a solar telescope, a gravity wave observatory, and ecological and ocean-observing networks.
For Long Term Ecological Research projects, missing even a single field season can create unfillable gaps. Shutdown casualties include a 23-year Antarctic study tracking the effect of sea ice on the polar biota and a New Mexico climate variability project that has been active since 1988.
All the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s (NRAO’s) U.S. telescopes were turned off on 4 October. A fourth telescope in Chile, run in partnership with three other countries, has enough money to limp along for a few weeks.
Last week, Senate Democrats blocked a House of Representatives plan to restore current funding levels for NIH through 15 December, saying House Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to pick and choose which federal agencies they’d like to reopen. One representative likened the discussion on the House floor to “a new episode of The Hunger Games.”
With 800,000 workers furloughed, meetings have had to be postponed or canceled. An NIH researcher traveled to Perth in Western Australia—a 30-hour trip from Washington, D.C.—only to learn by e-mail from NIH that he could not present at the meeting.
NASA officials ruled on 3 October that work on MAVEN, which is scheduled for launch between 18 November and 7 December, can continue after all. The spacecraft is designed to study the martian atmosphere, in part to figure out how its climate apparently became inhospitable for life. NASA has essentially shuttered the rest of its space science operations.
Despite initial reports from the American Geophysical Union that government research vessels would have to return to port if the shutdown lasted more than 24 hours, many U.S. research vessels are still on the water and have enough money to stay there until December. None of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System’s 19 vessels have been recalled, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s primary research ship will continue working. The U.S. Navy’s research ships also remain active.
NIH may have been denied a shutdown exemption, but the website ClinicalTrials.gov was granted a reprieve and is now operating during the shutdown to enable clinical trials to move forward.
One astronomer says the NRAO closures have rendered about $500,000 and one year’s worth of data useless. The Antarctic research halt spelled disaster for at least one graduate student, who arrived at Palmer Station along with several pallets of his Ph.D. research equipment and was told to turn around and go home. Cell biologists aren’t happy either: There’s no one at customs to approve shipments of research fruit flies, and grant reviews are on hold. Other scientists shared their frustrations on Twitter. Share your stories with us @ScienceNews.