After years of flat budgets, U.S. scientists have been hoping for the federal government to boost their prospects in a rough economy. If a fact sheet released late yesterday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–CA) is accurate, the stimulus package that House and Senate leaders agreed upon yesterday will be manna from heaven.
Most of the numbers reflect gaudy spending for science agencies that the House of Representatives proposed in mid-January. They also suggest that science won out over domestic spending priorities, notably federal assistance to state budgets. With state budgets in the red across the country, the House wanted to spend $79 billion on the assistance but the Senate only $39 billion. Science lobbyists had feared that in trying to come up with a compromise while controlling total spending, negotiators from the House and Senate would have to cut science funding. But although the final spending for state assistance is $54 billion in the fact sheet, science agencies made out like bandits:
According to the terms of the stimulus deal, this money must be spent roughly over the next 18 months. And a Pelosi staffer called the fact sheet "preliminary." But if it reflects what's in the final version of the bill that staffers are currently finalizing, "it's a huge surprise," says Toby Smith of the Association of American Universities. "It really shows a strong base of support, both on Capitol Hill and from the Obama Administration."