In DepthU.S. SCIENCE FUNDING

Congress gives science a record funding boost

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Science  30 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6383, pp. 1447-1448
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6383.1447

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Summary

The $5 billion spending increase that the U.S. Congress showered on nine leading civilian science agencies last week has sent science advocates "over the moon." But their joy may be short-lived. The hikes, including $3 billion more for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are part of a $1.3 trillion spending package for 2018 that includes a record $176.8 billion for federal spending on research and development, a 12.8%, or $20.1 billion, increase over 2017. The good news in the spending bill stems largely from a recent government-wide budget deal that allowed lawmakers to lift mandatory spending caps on discretionary accounts by a cumulative $300 billion over 2 years. But there's a string attached: Most of the additional civilian spending occurs in the first year, 2018, meaning that researchers shouldn't expect a repeat of this year's windfall in the 2019 fiscal year, which starts on 1 October. Another concern is the lopsided allocation, with NIH getting more than half of the raise given to the major civilian science agencies. That imbalance could reignite a long-simmering debate over whether federal investments have tipped too far toward the biomedical sciences.

  • * With reporting by Jeffrey Brainard, Adrian Cho, Jocelyn Kaiser, and Kelly Servick.