Going over the so-called fiscal cliff isn't necessarily a bad thing for science, argues Colin Macilwain at Nature. Sequestration — which includes sharp budget cuts across the US budget — will be reached at the end of the year if lawmakers do not come to an agreement on a new budget.
The science lobby, along with others, has been pushing for limiting the cuts to research and developing funding, but Macilwain says that an 8 percent cut won't be a terrible thing. "Under this scenario, the National Institutes of Health would, if past is prelude, reduce its average annual grant from about $450,000 to $400,000 — not pretty, but not exactly penury," he writes.
At the same time, he says sequestration would return the US budget to "a new baseline" as cuts would be evenly applied to discretionary spending, while not touching the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid budgets. "Once [the new baseline] is set, the path may be open for selective spending boosts — including, perhaps, in research — as well as tax reductions," he writes.