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Proposed U.S. research budget "out of balance," Science Editor-in-Chief says

March 22, 2001

The U.S. Administration's proposed research budget is "out of balance," calling for increased support of biomedicine, but deep cuts or stagnant funding for many other fields, according to an editorial in the 23 March, 2001 issue of the journal, Science.

Outlined in a request to Congress, the proposed U.S. science budget would provide a 14 percent increase for the National Institutes of Health.

Yet, "the National Science Foundation will, unless protests avail, limp along on an increase of 1.2 percent-an actual reduction in constant dollars once the non-research increases are deducted," writes Science Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy.

The budget proposal also recommends funding cuts for both the U.S. Department of Energy, targeted for a 3-percent reduction, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Slated for an 11-percent cut, the USGS "has supplied most of the government research that has guided fossil fuel exploration for decades," Kennedy notes.

"These marks," Kennedy says, "portend difficulties for the physical sciences." The proposed science budget also includes "flat-lined" funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which could hinder efforts to feed a population due to reach 10 billion by mid-century.

In an era when scientific investigation is becoming increasingly inter-disciplinary, Kennedy says, such funding disparities could hamstring emerging fields. "The dramatic scientific gains that will flow from the sequencing of the human genome will be harvested not only by molecular biologists but also by specialists in bioinformatics, trained in such disciplines as mathematics and computer science," he points out. Climate sciences, nanotechnology and various other fields require collaboration by scientists representing different disciplines.

"Nurturing fields like these requires a balanced portfolio," Kennedy says. Unfortunately, he adds, offices capable of providing thoughtful oversight-most notably, the President's Science Adviser, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy--remain vacant.
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Media Note: Reporters may request a copy of this Science editorial by calling (202) 326-6440, or by sending email to scipak@aaas.org.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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