Government Shutdown and Science

Many of us in the DC Metro region have firsthand knowledge of the effect of the recent government shutdown. For those of you who do  not, AAAS Member Central recapped five ways the shutdown impacted science in an October 17th blog post by Summer Allen, Graduate and Posdoc, Brown University, on the Capitol Connection blog. (For full text with the hyperlinks, read it at the source.)

capconnection_540x288_hi_89Five ways the government shutdown shut down science

October 17, 2013 | Author: Summer Allen, Graduate and Postdoc, Brown University

First the budgets for the major science funding agencies were cut. Then sequestration hit and tightened funding even further. Then the federal government shutdown caused lasting harm to science in ways that no one could have anticipated. Read on to discover five serious impacts the shutdown caused for the progress of science (and the scientists behind it).  

  1. There is a nationwide salmonella outbreak and the government shutdown prevented the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from doing its normal tracking routine. This outbreak is troubling enough that 10 furloughed staff members were brought back to work. Outbreaks of salmonella are problematic even if you religiously cook your chicken. This outbreak is especially pernicious since some of the strains that have been identified are antibiotic resistant (so check your Foster Farms chicken packages). The shutdown may also prevent accurate flu surveillance this year, so you also had better get your flu shot.
  2. Disruption to the Antarctic research season. Normally, around 700 scientists work at three research stations in Antarctica each year from October to February. The shutdown nearly caused the cancelation of the entire operation. Now that the government is open again, researchers are scrambling to play catch up. Meanwhile, some projects on the continent that have been ongoing for 20 years are dealing with an interruption of data collection brought on by the shutdown.
  3. Similarly, ecologists who do their research in national parks had to stop their research. Many of these projects are time-sensitive and/or seasonal, which means irreparable harm has already been done. For example, Catlin MacKenzie had just finished planting 270 trees in Acadia National Park for her graduate research project about climate change when the shutdown hit. During the shutdown the park was locked and the delicate transplants couldn’t be cared for.
  4. Scientists who study fishing stocks had to stop their analysis of this year’s numbers. This means the quotas for the number of fish that can be caught will probably be based on last year’s numbers.
  5. The shutdown means that many laboratory animals used for biomedical research couldn’t be used and must be euthanized. While essential staff were still feeding and caring for research animals, many projects are time-sensitive. For example, for some development studies animals must be a certain age in order to use them. Once that window has passed, the animals are no longer useful.

To see more about how the government shutdown impacted science, check out #shutscience on Twitter.”


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