The showdown in Washington, DC, over the sequester is unlikely to be resolved before the March 1 deadline, Politico reports, predicting that bills aimed at preventing the across-the-board cuts are merely "political cover" and will fail to receive the required number of votes to pass the US Senate.
Funding agencies and research institutes across the US are already planning for dealing with funding cuts.
The National Institutes of Health, the Huffington Post reports, has already scaled back some grants by 10 percent in anticipation of the sequester. The National Science Foundation has said, according to ScienceInsider, that its existing grants won't be affected by sequestration, but the number of new grants that it will fund would drop by about 1,000. If the sequester goes into place, the NIH and NSF budgets both face about a 5 percent cut.
Biomedical research labs rely heavily on federal funding to keep their research programs going. Keith Yamamoto, vice chancellor for research at the University of California, San Francisco, notes that salaries and stipends are the biggest costs for most labs. "There's just no way to escape the impact on employment," he tells HuffPo. Scott Zeger, the vice provost for research at Johns Hopkins University, similarly says that labs would have to become smaller under sequestration cuts.
The Harvard Crimson reports that some labs there have sought to contain costs by cutting staff and spending less on equipment and reagents.
The effect, Marc Kastner, a the dean of the School of Science at MIT, tells Tom Levenson at Scientific American's Guest Blog, will be felt most acutely by smaller labs and by graduate students, postdocs, and people who are supported by soft money. "Is ever Eric Lander going to slow down? He'll find a way," Kastner says, adding that "the rich survive and the poor get devastated. The real question is the next generation."
Research will, of course, continue on, but Zeger tells the Huffington Post that the pace will slow. "America will be a little bit less competitive. We're still going to make these discoveries ultimately. It may take a little longer, people may suffer in the meantime, but we're going to make these discoveries. It's human nature," Zeger says to HuffPo. "The question is, what role does America want to play in the discoveries that will define our future?"