Energy Secretary Steven Chu warned today that proposed cuts to energy research as part of a spending plan by House of Representatives Republicans for the rest of 2011 could cause a scientific brain drain that would damage U.S. science for years to come.
"We are in a global competition for the best scientists and engineers," said Chu in comments to reporters about the 2011 continuing resolution being debated this week on the floor of the House after he defended the president's 2012 budget to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this morning. "China is very aggressively trying to recruit back those students who have done graduate work and are postdocs in the United States. They are saying, 'Come to us. We have opportunities for you. We can give you jobs.' We don't want to lose those people."
Chu was also concerned about the impact of the proposed $900 million cut to the Department of Energy's $4.9 billion Office of Science, which operates 10 national laboratories that employ roughly 25,000 scientists, engineers, technicians, and other staff members as well as awarding grants to academic researchers across the country. "Remember, we're already halfway through the year," said Chu. "So it would have a real severe impact on the operations of the labs. That means furloughs and layoffs."