Stimulus bill includes big money for science
The $789 billion stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law on February 13 gives some $21.5 billion for scientific research and development across all agencies, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "The stimulus package is a singular event in the history of science funding," said John Marburger, former presidential science adviser and head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy under George W. Bush. Indeed, the coming year will be a good year to be a graduate student. The extra $3 billion given to the National Science Foundation will go to fund a wide variety of scientific research at universities.
According to an article in last week's Nature magazine, here is a breakdown on who gets what among the government's scientific agencies:
National Science Foundation
Stimulus: $3 billion
2008 budget: $6.1 billion
Highlights: $2.5 billion will go towards external research grants, including $300 million for instrumentation. A separate allowance of $400 million will go to construction of major facilities.
Department of Energy
Stimulus: About $40 billion
2008 budget: $23.9 billion
Highlights: Includes $11 billion for the electric grid, $5 billion for weatherproofing homes, $3.4 billion for fossil energy R&D and $2 billion for battery research. The Office of Science, which funds basic research, receives $1.6 billion. A separate $400 million will kick-start the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.
Stimulus: $1 billion
2008 budget: $17.2 billion
Highlights: $400 million for science. The joint House-Senate Conference report specifies that "Funding is included herein to accelerate the development of the tier 1 set of Earth science climate research missions recommended by the National Academies Decadal Survey and to increase the agency's supercomputing capabilities". Another $400 million could be spent on rocket development to shrink a "gap" in human spaceflight capability caused by retirement of the space shuttle.
The bill also specifies, "The conference agreement includes $50,000,000 for cross agency support. In allocating these funds, NASA shall give its highest priority to restore NASA-owned facilities damaged from hurricanes and other natural disasters occurring during calendar year 2008."
It is uncertain whether NASA will try to replace the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) satellite, which crashed into the ocean near Antarctica yesterday when the satellite failed to separate from its booster rocket. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory would have been a big help in determining how CO2 cycles between the atmosphere, ocean, and biosphere. Fortunately, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched a related satellite, the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite IBUKI (GOSAT), on January 23. GOSAT focuses primarily on carbon dioxide and methane sources.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Stimulus: $830 million
2008 budget: $3.9 billion
The joint House-Senate Conference report specifies that "$600,000,000 should be spent for construction and repair of NOAA facilities, ships and equipment, to improve weather forecasting and to support satellite development. Of the amounts provided, $170,000,000 shall address critical gaps in climate modeling and establish climate data records for continuing research into the cause, effects and ways to mitigate climate change."
National Institutes of Health
Stimulus: $10 billion
2008 budget: $29.6 billion
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Stimulus: $580 million
2008 budget: $737 million
The money must be spent quickly
Agencies have 60 days to present spending plans to the White House. The money must be spent quickly, with most of the spending required to be completed by September 30, 2010. There is no money earmarked for hurricane science, but the $600 million in NOAA's slice of the pie to help support satellite development could go towards a new QuikSCAT satellite, which would be a big help for marine forecasts and our ability to detect developing tropical storms. The main area hurricane science could use some stimulus money is for basic research into the hurricane intensification problem. I hope NOAA, NASA, and NSF see fit to spend part of the windfall on the people and computers needed to tackle this vital need. I'll have more on the subject of hurricane research progress and needs next week, when I'll be blogging from the 63rd Interdepartmental Hurricane Conference in Tampa, Florida.
You can find the full text of the stimulus bill at the White House web site.