With the U.S. government shutdown now finished with a three-week stop-gap funding measure, science agencies can now bring their workforce back again. Experiments can continue, grants can be reviewed, and researchers can continue to propose new ideas to advance the scientific field. However, it is important to note that we are not out of the woods yet. The three week funding measure was only a temporary measure to open the government. The primary debate around border security has not been resolved and President Trump has dug his heels in with demanding a border wall.
With that being said, the U.S. scientific enterprise is far from being out of the woods just yet. According to an important notice by the National Science Foundation, “…we will not be able to conduct business as usual.”
As a result, the National Science Foundation needs to play catch up in processing grants and finding ways to prioritize operations in the three weeks that they are given. The National Science Foundation needs to have long-term funding put into place to ensure that operations are not interrupted by political battles. Not to mention the fact that contractor’s working for the federal laboratory system would not be paid for lost work during the shutdown. While the total number of contractors at the national laboratories are not defined, the roughly 4 million contractors that do work for the federal government are affected by any government shutdown. A measure, H.R.339, introduced in both the Senate, and the House, would provide contractors with needed funds to compensate for the lost revenue during a shutdown.
To summarize, any government shutdown is bad for business; especially when it comes to the national laboratories. Any political battles in Congress, and the White House, need to remain clear of the nation’s science divisions as they strive to improve our scientific understanding and develop new technologies to better enhance our lives.