Believe it or not, in this newfound age of Alternative Facts, some good news has just emerged from the intertwined worlds of science and politics. Based on an advanced copy of America’s budget for the 2017 financial year, it looks like there has been an actual increase in science funding across the board, and rather wonderfully, Trump’s requests to have it cut have been comprehensively ignored.
Former President Obama signed off on the 2017 budget last year, but it overlapped with the ascension of the Trump administration and a resurgent GOP-controlled Congress. The Trump administration is one of the most anti-scientific governments ever to be in power in the US, and the president himself has committed himself to draconian cuts to science funding, particularly health and geosciences.
The threat of Trump’s 2018 budget remains real, but his influence over the 2017 budget haunted plenty of scientists and academics across the country. Any spending bill has to be approved by Congress, however, and it seems that this time, bipartisan agreement between Democrats and (some) Republicans have produced a bill that’s surprisingly pro-science.
Here are the highlights:
- The National Institute of Health (NIH) has had its spending increase by $2 billion to a total of $34 billion. Trump requested this to be cut.
- NASA has been granted $19.7 billion in funding, an increase even on what Obama requested. Of this, $5.8 billion is set aside for science research, including $1.9 billion for the Earth Sciences – something Trump officials said they wanted completely defunded.
- $37 million has been given to NASA’s STEM programs and outreach, with $100 million total going towards educational programs, something Trump also wished, and still wishes, to cut by 2018.
- The National Science Foundation (NSF), the largest federal fund for science and academia, has been given $7.5 billion, a slight increase from 2016’s budget.
- The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has been given $1.09 billion, a slight increase from 2016. Trump wanted to cut this by 10 percent.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which faced a 31 percent cut by this year or the next, has only had its funding cut by 1 percent.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been given $3.5 billion
- Renewable energies and clean energy research funding have been boosted by $17 million.
The pro-science budget may come as a surprise to casual observers who (not wrongly) see the GOP as a party that, at best, eschews science – with the exception of space exploration, that is. However, they encountered a bit of a problem.
Senate Democrats were needed to sign off on the 2017 budget, as a supermajority (60) of Senators needed to agree in order for it to pass, and Republicans don’t have those numbers at present. If they refused to pass the 2017 budget in its entirety, the government would enter a shutdown, and this would be political poison for them.
This allowed the Senate Democrats, who are generally far more pro-science, to wield considerable influence. While making sure that Planned Parenthood was protected and Trump’s border wall wasn’t funded, they also appeared to guarantee science funding increased, if only slightly, in most areas of the federal government.
This funding bill remains temporary, however, and it has to be officially approved by the House and Senate on May 5. However, all things considered, it looks like 2017 won’t be such a bad year for science at all, and with organizations like March For Science and 314 Action sending scientists to Washington DC, it looks like the Resistance is off to a good start.