Big gains for physics as Obama signs stimulus bill
Feb 17, 2009 1 comment
Science fared well in the $787bn package to stimulate the US economy that President Barack Obama signed into law today. The “recovery and reinvestment bill” includes $21.5bn for research and development (R&D), the bulk of which — some $18bn — will go directly to researchers. The remaining $3.5bn is allocated for facilities and equipment.
Politicians have been bickering over the bill since it was first unveiled on 15 January. American legislation takes a circuitous course on its way to the president. Typically, the House of Representatives and the Senate approve different versions of a bill, and then appoint negotiators to agree on compromise legislation that both houses must approve again before sending it to the president.
These prudent investments lay the necessary foundation for long-term economic growth and prosperity for our country Cherry Murray, American Physical Society
The $838bn Senate bill on 10 February included significantly less funding for physical science than the $825bn House bill on 29 January. Even though the Senate bill may have higher priority, most of the cuts to the physical sciences were reversed in the final $787bn bill agreed on 14 February. Indeed, physicists have welcomed the $21.5bn for science, with more than $10 bn of it going to government agencies responsible for funding the physical sciences.
NSF is a winner
The National Science Foundation (NSF) will receive $3bn in stimulus funding on top of its $6bn budget for 2009. This will include $1bn for research infrastructure and construction and $2bn for “other research and related activities.”
The DOE’s Office of Science, meanwhile, will get $1.6bn in funding beyond its 2009 budget of $4.0bn. Two other DOE programmes: energy efficiency and renewables, and fossil energy will receive $2.5bn and $1.0bn respectively, which is almost twice as much as their 2009 budget allocations of $1.2bn and $576m.
With a budget of $737m for this year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology will receive an extra $580 m, of which $360 m will go on building research facilities. NASA will receive an extra $1.1bn beyond its current budget of $17.2bn with $400m going towards its science and exploration programme.
The good news is that there is a lot of money for infrastructure. The big challenge is how to spend it Kei Koizumi, American Association for the Advancement of Science
“The surprise is how much money there is for science in the final bill,” says Kei Koizumi, budget analyst at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “The good news is that there is a lot of money for infrastructure. The big challenge is how to spend it.”
“These critical investments will not only benefit American science and innovation, but they will put thousands of Americans back to work through construction and manufacturing projects,” American Physical Society president Cherry Murray said in a statement. “Furthermore, these prudent investments lay the necessary foundation for long-term economic growth and prosperity for our country.”
The fresh funding has implications for US science beyond the current financial year. It puts back on track the goal of doubling federal government support for physical science — an ambition of the America COMPETES Act of 2007 that had fallen behind schedule.
Further evidence of the Obama administration’s ambitions for science will become clear later this month, with the release of its revised budget for the 2009 financial year, which started on the 1st of October last year.
About the author
Peter Gwynne is North America correspondent for Physics World