As of 12:01 a.m., Oct. 1, 2013 the U.S. federal government has been shut down. Typically when the government shuts down, it only lasts a couple of days. This time the shutdown is due to a disagreement on the enactment of the Affordable Care Act which was originally passed by Congress in 2010. The congressional Republicans in the House of Representatives are attempting to delay the execution of the Affordable Care Act of which the Senate will not pass.
With the government shutdown, “essential operations” will continue to work (this includes national security, law enforcement, air-traffic control, etc.). “Non-essential operations” will be put on hold until an agreement can be reached (this means that hundreds of thousands of federal employees may be furloughed and many museums may be closed causing an economic impact on tourism for some states). So, what does this mean for science?
During the last federal government shutdown, the National Science Foundation (who funds thousands of research institutions as well as provides millions of dollars in research grants) was seriously affected with $120 million in research grants going unmade and suspending the support of 2,000 people to execute research and educational activities.
In addition, 240 grant proposals for science and engineering research and education went unprocessed each day during the last shutdown. This resulted in an excess of thousands of proposals being unmet.
A science organization that will continue throughout the shutdown is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration whose analysis and distribution of weather data is considered “essential operations” for public safety.
As for this government shutdown, we will have to wait and see the effects it will have in today’s economy and highly scientific and technology advanced society.