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Sequester's Second Chance

The new March 1 deadline for the US lawmakers to come up with an alternative to the prevent deep, across-the-board cuts known as a sequester is beginning to loom large, and ScienceInsider give a rundown of what those $85 billion in cuts could mean for research and researchers. "The sequestration, by definition, covers almost every federal agency and every research program," it says.

As such both the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation may face cuts, though how much and to what programs isn't completely clear. ScienceInsider notes that the sequester originally was to cut $109 billion from the US budget and that that translated to 8.2 percent budget reductions for NIH and NSF. Then when the overall budget cut number was changed to $85 billion, that percentage was revised to 6.4 percent. However, NIH says it is no longer using that number, and other agencies are floating a 5 percent budget cut as a possibility, ScienceInsider adds.

Then, the agencies, in implement those cuts — whatever percentage they may be — may have a little wiggle room. "That discretion comes from the fact that OMB has said that the sequestration cuts will be applied to the same spending accounts that Congress uses to dish out an agency's annual appropriations," ScienceInsider writes. "But a single account can be an umbrella term that covers a very large agency — nearly all of NIH's $31 billion budget is appropriated to one account, for instance — or a definition that covers something smaller, such as a single program, project, or activity."

In any event, NIH Director Francis Collins has said that the sequester would present "a profound and devastating blow" to biomedical research in the US.