US Physics in trouble too

January 8, 2008

Two excellent web pages are collecting information on the STFC funding crisis. The first, centred on Astronomy, is Paul Crowther’s page. The second, centred on Particle Physics, is Mark Lancaster’s page. They are both full of reliable and sane information, so do check them out if you haven’t already. Looking at Mark’s page tonight I picked up that the US Science Budget is in trouble too; and minutes later I got an email from an alarmed US chum…

There are news articles here at New Scientist, and here at Cosmic Log. These articles are about the plug being pulled on the International Linear Collider, but its actually much wider than this. There are good summaries at the American Institute of Physics, and on the Unofficial ITER Fan Club page.

The overall science budget increase was 2.6%, i.e. flat cash, and this is the story across most areas. But, within the DOE budget, High Energy Physics was actually CUT – $696M next year versus $752M this year; and ILC was given $15M versus a $60M request. At the same time, BaBar is closing six months early, and 200 staff are being laid off at SLAC.

Astronomy funding comes from both NSF and NASA. The story on NSF overall looks bad – up 1.2% i.e. losing spending power, but its not clear yet what the effect is on key astronomy programs – NOAO, NRAO, Gemini, LSST, my old chums at NVO, and so forth. Probably more news will come out during the current AAS meeting in Texas.

For NASA the news is confusing. They get 3.1%, but there are various commitments and strings attached. For example, they are instructed to spend more on SIM than they planned. A recent post by the Bad Astronomer describes a talk by NASA Administrator Griffin, in which he seems to warn obliquely that there isn’t enough money to do everything. And of course Mars gets LOADSAMONEY.