Biophysical Society Bulletin | February 2023
FY24 government funding at the FY22 level of $1.5 trillion, which is a notable cut from the $1.7 trillion appropriated for FY23. While House Republicans have not specified top line defense and non-defense numbers, many have suggested that defense cuts were less likely, placing significantly more pressure on non-defense spending. There is also a provision calling for an automatic continuing resolution if the Senate does not vote on its own bills by October 1 in what Repub licans call a push for regular order. Senate Democrats have made clear the proposed FY24 spending level cuts will be a non-starter. This very public fracture within the Republican party, coupled with the significant power concessions, leaves now-Speaker McCarthy wielding a gavel without much power to align the Republican conference and only the smallest margin of votes—four—that he can afford to lose in any contentious vote.
The funding crunch is falling hardest on graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. As a result, jobs for students and postdocs are increasingly scarce, and those who receive scholarships or fellowships from the funding councils are no better off, as the value of those awards has remained flat for the past 20 years.
Kharkiv’s Science Community Spotlights Ukrainian Resilience
No one needs to be reminded that Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago. The war has killed or injured at least 17,000 civilians, including scientists and students, and displaced more than 14 million Ukrainians. More than 1,300 Ukrainian scientists—primarily women and men older than 60—have fled, finding refuge in labs in other countries, and tens of thousands of students are studying abroad. Kharkiv, known as “the crown jewel of Ukrainian science,” has suffered devastating damage from relentless Russian bombings. In addition to Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology, the Kharkiv region hosts nine other institutes of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, as well as 65 universities and colleges. In September, Ukraine’s army recap tured nearly the entire Kharkiv region, putting it out of reach of artillery fire, and now academic centers here are buzzing with activity as staff begin the long road of repairs. Lab work and online classes have resumed, even amid blackouts and scant heating caused by Russian bombardment of the coun try’s energy infrastructure. The resilience has energized efforts to staunch Ukraine’s brain drain. Over the summer, the European Union launched a €25 million program, led by the Alexander von Humboldt Foun dation, to place Ukrainian graduate students and postdocs in European labs with the expectation that they will return home when conditions allow. Other countries are also lending support to scientists forced to leave Ukraine.
Around theWorld Canadian Scientists Struggle with FundingWoes
Scientific researchers attending Canada’s major annual science policy conference in December were elated when science minister François-Philippe Champagne announced the government would be awarding C$1 billion to research proj ects. That elation was short lived, however, when it became clear the funding announced referred to existing, not new funds. In recent years, the nation’s spending on research has not kept pace with inflation, and instead shrank slightly as a pro portion of gross domestic product between 1999 and 2019— making Canada the only country among the Group of Seven advanced economies to see such a decline. A large, multiyear boost in funding that began in 2018 has run its course, and budgets at the federal government’s three main funding councils remained flat this year.
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