Tuesday, February 14, 2006

NASA - word2

well a little e-mail from somewhere south east of here confirms it.

With the current NASA budget, the number of new PI grants for University and lab researchers will be about half what it is normally in the next cycle. Effectively 15% fewer NASA funded postdocs (and to lesser extend graduate students - more independent GSRPs, fewer senior grads on mission specific data analysis grants etc).
With the projected out-year budgets this will cumulate, until NASA is supporting about half the researchers it does now.
Note that under Full Cost Accounting, researchers at the NASA centers need to raise their own salary through grants, we're not just talking university PIs and private lab orgs like SWRI.
Even with the promised expansion of NSF funding (which I think works out to ~ 50-100 new grants in astro this year if all the new money goes into individual PI lines), the total number of postdoc and grad slots funded in astronomy and astrophysics will decline about 5% next year, and more steeply in the out-years, for a total loss of 1/4 - 1/3 of soft money positions.

IF the budget stays this way. Congress could put money back in, or it could take more out for pet projects.
Further, SOFIA, for example, is technically under review - the Germans are not going to be pleased with its termination just as the instruments have seen first light and the airplane actually rolled out. Several hundred million dollars to complete the facility and then termination with no data?
If SOFIA is put back in after review, then we're looking at ~ $40 million if I recall, which has to come from some other line (modulo Congress not putting new money in).

And, if CEV has a 10% cost overrun, we lose another couple of hundred million dollars. From the Science line, since CEV development is now on the Science side of the fence.

Hey, I know, maybe they could put it off budget and use monopoly money.

A postdoc costs about $100,000 per year.
Iraq burns about one postdoc per minute. Off budget.

To employ every physics and astronomy postdoc in the USA would cost about 3 days.

Maybe they could, y'know, declare a truce or something... just for 3 days...


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