they lied! about money!
The space science and astronomy community reaction has been curiously subdued. Partly this is because of mixed news, the bits of extra funding to the National Science Foundation sound promising (though the details look a bit worrying). And the particle physics people are happy with both the DoE Office of Science and NSF.
The "leadership" has been notably quiet. Not a peep from the American Astronomical Society or the relevant divisions of the American Physical Society. Word is that some of the people who should be speaking out are basically withdrawn in shock. The reality of the budget and the attitude they are getting from NASA ("if scientists want to complain about the funding, then I'm sure we can find someone who would appreciate the funding" is one paraphrased comment I got forwarded) has been a blow, the direct contradiction to what we've been told, repeatedly, over several years, as recently as january this year, and the cynicism of the cuts are just too much - people don't want to play any more.
There has been some flurry of activity among individual groups threatened, a lot of writing to Congress critters. Which is well and good. Congress does have the budgetary power to change this.
I'm concerned on a couple of fronts there. One is the anecdotal information I hear that Congress committee members were "prepped" by NASA to expect "whining" from "special interest groups" (and, again, I paraphrase). So a lot of the commenting to Congress will be ignored.
Secondly, Congress can raise the Science line funding at NASA, and even recommend priorities, but unless they specify very low level line item funding (which they can do and have done), the NASA AA and science directors can re-allocate within the line. I am wary of letting Congress take line-by-line control of the NASA science budget, 'cause that way lies a lot of smelly pork and even worse prioritization of funding. Also, the CEV/Constellation development WILL run over budget, and the cost overruns will just eat up more science/aeronautics funding.
I still get the sense that a lot of scientists expect a Congressional miracle. I am not so confident, but we can hope.
Actually the best bet may be for Congress to chicken out of passing a potentially electorally controversial budget and for the 2007 budget to be a "continuing" 2006 budget...
And, there have been outbreaks of cannibalism.
The science community is very vulnerable to this when time get hard, which is why we so often get shafted.
The best bet for long term funding is solidarity.
Do not speak ill of others research, always praise it in general terms, and then address specifically why your research is so important, will cure cancer etc.
But, I have heard several reports where missions, centers and sub-fields have claimed that what others do is not so important and that all the remaining funding must go to them, with the others cut. Once such a game starts, it escalates, and everyone loses. It would be so nice if our dear colleagues could learn a little bit of classical game theory.
Starting with meta-rule #1: Do Not Participate in Negative Sum Games!
Overall there is a curious theme here: NASA science has always made some sincere effort to consult with the community, establish priorities and maintain balances portfolios across sub-disciplines. Partly this is engineering sense, you break up the labs and mission teams and they take 10-20 years to reassemble. Partly it is scientific sense, you don't know where blue sky breakthroughs come from, so you cover all the bases, to the extent you can.
This seems to have changed. There is no apparent recognition of priorities; there is no attempt to balance across sub-fields; and there is no consultation with the community - in the past there have been at least some efforts to call in the existing advisory committees, tell them the bad news and ask for recommendations and prioritizations. The standing committees will assemble at very short notice and can give very rapid response. Not so much this year.
NASA is now run top-down, and the admins have their preset preconceptions and priorities. There doesn't even seem to be much of an attempt to rationalise the funding decisions; they know what they like, they know what they want to do, they know what they have to do in a few cases whether they like it or not, and they have the power. So the rest they just cut in chunks until it is small enough.
Butchering. Clumsy butchering. With a little bit of payback on the side.
And I don't think we're done yet...