Monday, March 20, 2006

AstroBio: no new $

Well, the rumours are out and true, unfortunately.
E-mail from NASA HQ to wide enough a recipient list that it is de facto public:

"...As part of the ramp-down to the FY07 funding level[50% cut], the total budget for the program in FY06 has been cut 28% to just under $47 million.

Even at the requested FY07 funding level we will be able to support a vigorous program of astrobiology research and some technology development. Obviously, however, it will be about half the size of the current program. Getting from here to there will be challenging and painful...

The principal decision is to fully fund previous astrobiology competitive awards to the greatest degree possible. The implication of this policy is that our ability to make new awards in FY06 will be extremely limited. Nonetheless, we plan to go forward with panel reviews of the proposals we received in late 2005 for all four elements of the program. The proposing teams put an enormous amount of effort into preparing these proposals and they deserve at least the critical feedback provided by the peer review process. Having the peer review evaluations in hand will also allow NASA to make the most effective use of whatever funds are available for new awards.

I have also reluctantly concluded that, under the present circumstances, it is not sensible to go forward with new astrobiology solicitations in FY06. NASA has therefore canceled the three astrobiology elements of the ROSES-06 omnibus solicitation (Exo/Evo, ASTEP, ASTID). This decision can be reversed in the future should the budget picture change."

Translation: the proposals submitted last year, including renewal requests, will not be funded.
Reviews of submitted proposals were completed and feedback will be sent in, for guidance to authors, and so there is ranking in place in case a miracle happens.

Comment: even if Congress acts fast (eg by August) it will be too late to do any funding for this year, except possibly for top rated renewal proposals (who will now go into shut-down mode anyway and start firing people), and any proposal rated Excellent across the board. So no $ this year for anyone, any change will just roll into 2007 no matter what, even if miracles happen.

BTW, the following Astrobiology Institutes are up for renewal this summer (see here for list:

Rhode Island

I heard 100+ teams applied for funding in the current (and now defunded) solicitation round.


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