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Not So Bad...

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.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.