The cost of the shutdown and sequester

People may be wondering how the US government shutdown is affecting the NIH. I can’t speak for the rest of the institutes but I was instructed to not come to work and to not use my NIH email account or NIH resources. Two new fellows, who were supposed to begin on Oct 1, now have to wait and they will not be compensated for the missed time even if Congress does decides to give back pay to the furloughed employees. I really was hoping for them to start in August or September but that was pushed back because of the Sequester (have people forgotten about that?), which cut our budgets severely. In fact, because of the Sequester, I wasn’t able to hire one fellow because the salary requirements for their seniority exceeded my budget. We were just starting to get some really interesting psychophysics results on ambiguous stimuli but that had to be put on hold because we couldn’t immediately replace fellow Phyllis Thangaraj, who was running the experiments and left this summer to start her MD/PhD degree at Columbia. Now it will be delayed even further. I have several papers in the revision process that have also been delayed by the shutdown. All travel has been cancelled and I heard that people at conferences were ordered to return immediately, including those who were on planes on Oct 1. My quadrennial external review this week has now been postponed. All the flights for the committee and ad hoc members have to be cancelled and we now have to find another date where 20 or more people can agree on. All NIH seminars and the yearly NIH research festival has been cancelled. I was supposed to review an external NIH research proposal this week and that has been postponed indefinitely along with all other submitted proposals awaiting review. Academic labs, students and postdocs depending on their NIH grants this fiscal year will be without funding until the government is reopened. Personally, I will probably come out of this reasonably intact. However, I do worry how this will affect young people, who are the future.

2 thoughts on “The cost of the shutdown and sequester

  1. well that does sound bad … all this to deny poor people health care.

    But as for business, we can still contact you at the NIH address? i don’t think i’ve got any other :)


  2. What pains me is the arbitrariness of the shutdown. DOD was able to declare most of their people essential and at a stroke bring 400 K back to work. There is a bill to reopen NIH, but it is stalled by political maneuvering. If some people are allowed to work even though the government has no money, why can’t others? The shutdown is an abstraction to most people (so far), but to those personally affected it can be devastating. In addition to the fellows Carson mentioned, contractabors will not get back pay even if regular government employees do. And why are locally funded DC city services held hostage to the whim of a few ideologues? Very disheartening.


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