The sequester, which is set to go into effect at the end of this week if US lawmakers don't come to an agreement to avoid the cuts, will lead to a 5.1 percent, or $1.6 billion, decrease to the National Institutes of Health budget. New grants, USA Today reports, would be particularly affected by the cuts. ScienceInsider reports that grant success rates could fall from 17 percent or 18 percent — which is already lower that success rates seen in years past — to 15 percent.
"I worry desperately this means we will lose a generation of young scientists," says NIH Director Francis Collins, according to USA Today.
Former NIH Director Elias Zerhouni concurs that young investigators will be the most affected by the sequestration, should it go into effect. He tells the Washington Post's Wonk Blog that "the most impacted are the young, new investigator scientists, who are coming into science, and will now abandon the field of science. There will be a generational gap created."
Further, Zerhouni, who now is the director of research and development at Sanofi, says that "the suddenness of [the sequester] and the depth of it would be a disaster for research, which is not an activity that you can turn on and off from year to year. It's an activity that takes time."
Indeed, USA Today's Dan Vergano notes, delays in grant funding may lead to labs closing their doors. "The sequester is going to be a huge mess for basic research, but I'm not sure if folks really appreciate what this means for the average Joe academic scientists," New Mexico State University's Brad Schuster tells him. "There are no furloughs in academic science. If funding runs out, that's it, everyone's out on the street."