The Sequester Could Have a Devastating Impact on Scientific Research, Too

Monday, February 25, 2013

If President Obama and Congress refuse to reach a budget compromise by Friday, March 1st, significant spending cuts known as sequestration automatically take effect. The Takeaway has discussed sequestration's potential impact on Department of Defense employees and their communities, but the spending cuts would also affect a number of other federally-funded projects, including scientific and medical research. 

According to the nonpartisan Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, sequestration would cut $12.5 billion from federally-funded research and development this year, rendering 200,000 unemployed. Dr. Elias Zerhouni, former director of the National Institutes of Health, told the Washington Post that sequestration "would be a disaster for research" and would "impact science for generations to come."

Laurie Leshin, dean of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and former deputy associate administrator at NASA, explains how sequestration would affect her field and other ongoing research at Rensselaer. Dr. Larry Corey, president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, discusses how the spending cuts would impact cancer research and his own work, developing an HIV vaccine.


Dr. Larry Corey and Laurie Leshin

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger

Comments [5]

Dan Denton from South Bend, Indiana

Charles-- scientific research from the US will migrate to Europe because "Europe" doesn't just consist of insolvent states like Greece, Britain or Ireland, it also houses global powerhouses like Germany and Scandinavia (taken together). You are committing the common mistake of mixing up "Europe" with "Greece". While some countries are indeed hurting, places like Germany, Switzerland and Finland are more than solvent, they run massive trade surpluses with the US and they solidly support scientific enterprise. There's a reason that so many scientific journals are in German and that Central European research labs often put out so much of the top science. You disregard the dangerous effects of the sequester on US science at your own peril.

Mar. 03 2013 08:02 PM

I nearly burst into laughter, hearing John Hockenberry speculate about how U.S. research talent might migrate to "Europe," if we don't support them with enough federal government funding.


Europe is more insovlent than the U.S. Treasury. Where is their governmental research funding coming from? Where does "Europe" go to borrow money?

Every time I hear about research and development projects for brilliant new ideas that will help save energy, or produce energy, or create fantastic new products, I cannot help but think that if it is such a great idea, surely some venture capitalists will invest in it. And if not, I wonder why not.

On a larger meta-journalism front, I'd like The Takeaway to keep a tally on how many stories it is doing, on the general subject of, "Oh these cuts in federal spending are so disastrous. We just have to keep spending on this or that. There is no way we can reduce federal spending; these programs are all too important."

It would really be an interesting story, if you'd do one on whether the Navy REALLY needed to cancel a carrier group going to the Persian Gulf. Or if the Air Force Thunderbirds REALLY needed to cancel an airshow. I'm okay if there's good proof of any of that. How many military airshow programs do we really need? But instead of simply playing scriptwriters for the Obama Administration's narrative that Sequestration is intolerable and someone must be blamed, let's look hard at the problem that got us to where we are. The constantly-growing, ever-larger, massive federal budget. There's no reason why The Takeaway shouldn't ask questions about exactly what federal activities could and should be defunded during a Sequestration period. No reason other than that it doesn't serve the interests of the Current Occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So perhaps we know what the answer might be.

Feb. 25 2013 12:24 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Any cuts to Science is dumb. There is a lot of money to be made with the advances of Scientific Research as has been proven throughout history... and ah, oh yeah, it might help humanity as well.

Feb. 25 2013 12:13 PM
Emily Hamilton from Worcester, MA

Thank you for providing this episode, John Hockenberry.
Our environment, livelihoods, job security, and modern lifestyles are all threatened because our economy does not reflect our true values as a society. Rather than creating these massive, across the board furloughs and sequestration cuts on government and infrastructure that we need, why not tax the billionaire companies that do not need the excessive cash flow and do not provide such balanced return for our society? Such as Facebook, cell phone and cable companies that charge exorbitant amounts for their services and products, credit card companies and banks that tie up our cash flow, oil companies that are providing energy, but harming our valuable environmental resources, etc. Why not tax large companies more (not just individuals with high incomes) and use that money to pay for our health care, security, education, research and infrastructure? Rather than creating 20% income cuts from the furloughs, which will leave our country with a spending deficit and future resource and education deficit, lets involve the large, successful companies in America more in the building and recovery of our infrastructure and economy. Let's get that cash that is tied up in a few large companies and individuals flowing again.

Feb. 25 2013 11:54 AM

How much research would have the Presidential trips to Martha's Vineyard, Hawaii, Aspen, golf trips ect, ect have funded?
This is what happens when you support a President and party that spends a trillion dollars a year without a serious budget.
It seems the reality of simple math has eluded these great minds.

Feb. 25 2013 09:35 AM

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