Science funding on the decline

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Funding used for scientific research and undergraduate science education has been declining since 2004, with the trend expected to continue, according to budget reports from the National Science Foundation.

The math and science partners budget was cut from $138 million in 2004, to just over $79 million in 2005, with President George W. Bush’s request for its budget in 2006 expected to be reduced to $60 million, according to the statistics.

Elementary, high school and informal science education has seen its funding cut from $206 million in 2004 to $182 million in 2005, and is expected to be lowered to $141 million in 2006.

Undergraduate funding was reduced from $163 million in 2004 to $154 million in 2005, and research, evaluation and communication funds were cut from $66.41 million in 2004 to $59.52 million in 2005, and are projected to decrease to $135 million next year.

Overall, funding for science education is expected to be cut by 12.4 percent.

According to William Knox, an NSF spokesperson, the cuts hurt scientific research and education conducted at the elementary through undergraduate levels.

Schools use grants given to them by the NSF to purchase lab equipment, he said.

President Bush is shifting funding from the NSF to the Department of Education, Knox said.

However, things can still change, he said.

“It’s so early in the budget process, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen,” Knox said.

According to Mack Johnson, CSUN associate vice president of graduate studies, students at schools that conduct more extensive fundamental scientific research, such as UCLA or USC, are likely to be more affected by the cuts. CSUN isn’t likely to take as much of a hit.

Johnson said there really isn’t any way around the cuts.

“It would be irresponsible to propose a budget without some cuts,” he said.

Because the national deficit is the highest it has been in history, cuts have to be made somewhere, and the NSF is just one of the agencies that has happened to receive educational cuts. He also said that several years back, funds were taken from the Department of Education and given to the NSF, the opposite of what is set to happen now. Funds are also constantly being cut from many different agencies, and are being reallocated in order to balance the budget.

Despite the cuts in education, the NSF has seen increases in proposed funding in other areas. These include a 2.7 percent increase in research and related activities, a 44 percent increase in major research equipment and facilities construction, a 21 percent increase in salaries and expenses, a 0.8 percent National Science Board increase, and a 15 percent Office of Inspector General increase, according to the budget report.

Johnson reiterated that these budget proposals may not actually go through the way they are currently set up, since congress has the final say in how the funds are allocated.