Tom Levenson on the impact of the sequester on science in the Scientific American Blog.
In that larger frame, Kastner argues, we are now confronting a problem that’s been mounting for decades. The meat-axe poised over the biological sciences struck his own field of physics back in the seventies: “That was when you heard about theoretical physicists driving cabs.” The response? “Groups got smaller and post-docs got treated better.” (Sic! Even now, physics post docs at national labs get significantly higher pay than new Ph.D post docs in biology, Kastner says.) Something similar is likely in prospect now: “Maybe what we need is simply to have fewer graduate students.” The issue, brought into focus by the battle over the sequester is that for any of the gambles individual centers may have chanced, ultimately the decision about how much science the U.S. chooses to pursue is a civic one. Right now, Kastner says, “we have over-produced scientists given the investment we are willing to make as a society.”
In sum: “the reality is that I think the sequester will have a rolling effect on science research” Kastner says, “but it’s hard to tell as there are no controls.” Thinking parochially for a moment, MIT and similarly well-off, internationally recognized universities will hold up. Not perfectly, not without pain, but still, they’ll persist. And certainly, science as a human enterprise isn’t going to go away. But that’s not the same thing as saying that America’s scientific pre-eminence is invulnerable. “There are places around the world which will fill the gap,” Kastner tells me as our conversation winds down. They’re just not necessarily here in the U.S.
Science communication would be useful - the country is largely scientifically illiterate, yet it is a fundamental driver of our long term economy. Currently communication and education leaves much to be desired. Scientific illustrator Emily Coren writes in a Nature blog and offers list of some resources.