Tuesday, May 09, 2006

NAC reports

Planetary Society Blog has reports from the NASA Advisory Committee meetings

Depressing Day 2

"a 50% cut is devastating. A 30% cut, in a humane way, you don't need to renege on current commitments -- you miss a year. But if you cut 50% you have to renege."

Someone pointed out that indeed, most R&A grants run three years; a 30% cut means you have to skip a year but you don't take any already-awarded money away.

Curt Niebur: "But I should point out that with astrobiology it gets a lot more complex because in addition to the grants, you have the astrobiology institutes," long-term entities that are independent of the 3-year grant programs.

Jeff Moore: "What's the cost to cut just new people in astrobiology?" "

This is slightly inaccurate in detail. At a 30% cut you're cutting renewals and you break the pipeline if you cut all new grants.
At 50% you lose all new initiatives and renewals, and you take a 25% cut of existing grants.

So here's the problem: most grants support 1 person full time - a student or postdoc; and then marginal support for a supervisor, and "research expenses" (supplies, travel etc).
Most of the money is in the personnel - so that is where the cut goes. And people come in integer units. Unless there are two grants that can be glued together, you immediately lose people. Lots of people.

What is particularly ironic is that at the same time there is a new NASA mandate that in the EPO line, the priority is training new undergraduates and graduate students.
For what?
A career in research is never guaranteed, and the odds dictated that many will not get long term research positions, but what is the purpose in increasing and emphasising student training if all the positions they could occupy after graduation are cut?

Any way, too late now; the current round of grants are rescinded and cuts have been made for grants in progress, and that money can't come back in time for the financial year. Even if money is restored by Congress, it will still push everything out a year.


Post a Comment

<< Home