The federal government spends tens of billions of dollars every year to support fundamental scientific research that is mostly conducted at universities. For instance, the basic discoveries that made the COVID-19 vaccine possible stretch back to the early 1960s. Such research investments contribute to the health, wealth and well-being of society, support jobs and regional economies and are vital to the U.S. economy and national security.
Even if lawmakers avoid a shutdown and pass a budget, America’s future competitiveness could suffer because federal research investments are on track to be billions of dollars below targets Congress set for themselves less than two years ago.
The CHIPS act authorized US$81 billion for the agency, promised to double its budget by 2027 and directed it to “address societal, national, and geostrategic challenges for the benefit of all Americans” by investing in research.
But there was one very big snag. The money still has to be appropriated by Congress every year. Lawmakers haven’t been good at doing that recently. The government is again poised to shut down. As lawmakers struggle to keep the lights on, fundamental research is likely to be a casualty of political dysfunction. The budget proposals released so far fall $5 billion to $7.5 billion short of what the CHIPS act called for in fiscal year 2024. Deal or no deal, science is on the chopping block in Washington.
Research’s critical impact
That’s bad because fundamental research matters in more ways than you might…