A while ago, I described what sequestration would mean to me as a scientist (boldface added):
The other way I’ll be hit is that I’m basically on a grant with a junior, soft-money researcher. We received the scores and broke the threshold: the section typically funds at X%, and we received a ranking of X-1% (e.g., they fund 15% percent of proposals, and we scored 14th percentile). Things looked good in December.
And then there’s the sequester, which, if it happens, will reduce NIH funding for new proposals. While NIH is being vague about the effects, it’s hard to know what will happen right at the edge, though it looks like new proposal approval rates will drop.
So now things aren’t looking so good.
From my perspective, it would be nice to get the grant. Like my Uncle Harry used to say, rich or poor, it’s always good to have money. It would pay a small part of my salary for a couple of years (I’m basically on as a technical advisor), but, again, my salary is covered, so I’ll be alright. But my colleague, who has been ridiculously productive, is screwed. I really don’t know what will happen to him, or the two people he employs.
The good news is that received the grant. The bad news is that it was cut so much that he had to fire a post-doc. That post-doc did nothing wrong–he was associated with a successfully renewed project with a one in nine funding rate. The only reason he lost his job is that somewhere, someone had decided on an arbitrary spending limit. Hopefully, he landed on his feet and found a job. And that’s the second problem: even if the full award is eventually restored (one can always hope), a successful group has been broken up, and a successful PI has to waste time hiring a new post-doc (with no guarantees that things will work out with the new post-doc). This is a fucking stupid way to do science, not to mention needlessly cruel to the affected scientists.
Maybe some of those Republican senators who are making noises about how science needs to benefit the American people might want to do something useful instead and look into this type of thing. Don’t think that will happen though.
On the other hand, Congresscritters who need to fly home for fundraisers were inconvenienced by air traffic control cuts, so they fixed that problem. That means one of the broad effects of sequestration that disproportionately affects the wealthy (even if you have a private plane, it can’t fly anywhere without air traffic controllers) has been eliminated.
So much for that ‘everyone must have skin in the game’ crap.
‘Fiscally-responsible’ Democrats and Republicans, assholes both, created a Sword of Damocles–and then they fucked that up too.