AGU Decries Proposed Massive Cuts to Science Agency Funding in Administration’s FY18 Budget Proposal
Earlier today, the Trump administration released its FY18 budget proposal. While details of the budget will continue to be released in the coming days and weeks, AGU issued the following statement in response to the currently available information in which I said the following:
“The release of President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal earlier today has drawn into sharp focus a disconnect between our nation’s desire to protect the public from harm and grow our economy, and the Administration’s willingness to make the necessary investments in science to support a healthy and prosperous society. This is particularly troubling because in the budget blueprint released earlier this year, the President stated that his goal was to craft a financial plan that “emphasizes national security and safety” without which “there can be no prosperity.” With extensive cuts and proposed eliminations of entire divisions of agencies, the President’s FY18 proposal instead charts a course of destructive underfunding for scientific agencies that stimulate the economy, protect public safety, and keep our nation safe and secure.
The President’s budget proposes deep cuts to our nation’s leading scientific agencies including National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The ramifications of these cuts – which are below the FY17 omnibus levels – will have significant impacts on the health and welfare of the nation. For example, NASA’s Earth Science Mission – which provides critical research and observations that help to protect our national security, public health, and provides important commercial data – faces cuts of 8.7%, including the termination of key Earth observation missions and the phasing out of the NASA Education office. NOAA – which provides weather and climate data that protects the more than half of all American who live along our coasts, over 2.8 million jobs in ocean reliant industries, and coastal property valued in excess of $10 trillion – faces a 16% reduction overall, with deeper cuts to climate and other research programs as well as the elimination of the Sea Grant program.
NSF, which serves as the backbone of our country’s innovation ecosystem by providing funding support for fundamental research and opportunities for thousands of students to pursue careers in STEM fields, is in line for cuts of 11%. Additionally, within DOE, the budget calls for the phase out of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), which provides transformational energy research, and cuts the Office of Science – the nation’s largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences – by 17%. EPA – which conducts research and provides research grants to develop scientific knowledge related to environmental issues facing our nation, including climate change and water quality – would be cut by 29% in the President’s budget.
This budget is only the first step in determining the funding levels for our nation’s science agencies in FY18. We look to our elected officials on both sides of the aisle to craft spending bills that support the work of our invaluable federal science agencies to help ensure the safety and well-being of our citizens. We strongly encourage Congress not to lose sight of science’s game-changing legacy of driving our economy and improving our quality of life. Investing in science today is an investment in our collective future. American families and businesses deserve nothing less.”
AGU will work vigorously to communicate the essential value of Earth and space science to Congress and the public. In addition, we will update you as new information becomes available. At the same time, AGU members and concerned citizens must act in support of imperiled agencies – NASA, NOAA, NSF, USGS, DOE, and EPA – by contacting your members of Congress and pressing for funding recommendations that advance continued scientific innovation and excellence. We also urge you to visit our Science Is Essential resource page where you can learn how to take part in Congressional Visit Days, sign up for Science Policy Alerts, share how your science affects your community and nation, hone your science communications skills, and join our Sharing Science Network.
¬¬¬Now retired and a member of AGU for nearly 50 years, I do take the time to write to various members of Congress.
I find it surprising that a President who relies so greatly on digital devices to send notes to the world on the internet is hell bent on reducing funding for science, the same innovative research platform that gave him the devices to play his favorite communication games. I suspect he does not realize that connection and his advisors of choice neither recognize nor appreciate that link at all.
It is incumbent upon us, the scientific community, therefore, to make this quality known. Too many of us spend our careers competing in a system that provides rewards such as promotion and funding for a successfully written proposal. Some fields are lucky enough to compete for a Nobel Prize but the reward is too often an endowed professorship accompanied by a trip to oblivion. It is so difficult to participate in the highly espoused, politically correct research concepts of today; the cross-discipline, multi-discipline, inter-discipline and now trending as convergence cooperation. I, and my colleagues who have prepared research proposals for such overlapping fields of common interest, have encountered a near-fatal flaw. Where are you going to find the multi-disciplinary expertise to review such proposals? A great concept but the infrastructure is lacking. Some large corporations have the luxury of funding such advanced ideas. The risks are high but the knowledge advancement potential is great.
For tremendous contrast in science leadership, simply recognizing the importance of science in society, we need only go back 210 years to the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, sometimes referred to as the founder of American science. While President of the newfound U.S., he was also president of the American Philosophy Society, founded by contemporary Ben Franklin. He was also an inventor, once head of the patent office, and certainly he recognized the importance of surveys of the land. In a letter to John Adams in 1813, Jefferson wrote, “Science has liberated the ideas of those who read and reflect, and the American example has kindled feelings of right in the people.”
We now have a social and political culture that thrives on half-truths to coerce people to special interest viewpoints, infamously called “alternative facts.” Science familiarity is critical for people to make informed decisions. The 2018 Federal Budget is frightening on how it treats our national science agencies. We must view his as a temporary setback but set to work to right the wrong. The political pendulum will swing back from this apparent extreme. We might even be so lucky as to replace the oligarchy with some common sense leadership.
We clearly are not going to have the influence with this President that Albert Einstein had with President Roosevelt. I am sure there are many scientists today with the charisma of Carl Sagan, Margaret Mead, Richard Feynman, and Albert Einstein but it is up to us and our scientific societies to promote them. We have great role models today. Neil Degrasse Tyson comes to mind as a popular scientific communicator. But the public science mentors need higher visibility than PBS and an occasional stint as an expert commentator on Fox News or CNN. Such a cadre of representatives will not appear overnight but it is not too early to plan for 20 years out. Equally important is the oft-forgotten vote. Only 60 percent of eligible voters turned out in the last presidential elections. The message for scientists is clear –vote. Alternatively, more scientists should run for our federal elected positions. But try to instill that message to the Union’s citizen members!
I am hopeful that the latest rejection of the Paris Accord will be ignored by local governments and even businesses. I can envision a successful boycott of a company that switches back to coal from natural gas. I think even profit motive is today guided with the efforts to stabilize our climate from anthropomorphic accelerated changes.
I end with a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson, although a bit out of context as he was writing to Dr. Benjamin Rush in 1800 on a religious comparison. “For I have sworn… eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
And so it should be for us. We have waited a bit too long to initiate a high degree of activism to counter suppression of science but it is not too late. We must make some aggressive changes in the way we promote and administer scientific interest and research.
It is interesting that Michael Reiner mentions Richard Feynman. Linked below were Feynman’s thoughts on the CO2 greenhouse gas effect. I also recommend a thoughtful study of the most recent pronouncements by James Lovelock , Freeman Dyson and many others who have turned their backs on the greenhouse gas effect. Even Gina McCarthy, Barack Obama’s EPA administrator, is quoted to say she “can’t understand why climate change became a politically-induced religion”. http://principia-scientific.org/physicist-richard-feynman-discredits-greenhouse-gas-theory/