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Stop the Pipettes?

If the US Congress fails to avoid a government shutdown — the US government runs out of money at midnight when the fiscal year ends, if an agreement on a new federal budget is not reached — a number of US agencies and their workers may be affected. The New York Times notes that there is still ongoing political maneuvering, but "a temporary shutdown appear[s] inevitable without a last-ditch compromise."

While many federal workers would have to stay home in the event of a shutdown, some personnel would still go into the office. For example, the Times says that 52 percent of Health and Human Services employees would be furloughed, and while food inspectors would not be working, National Institutes of Health staff that care for lab animals would be.

The Nature News Blog adds that the effect of a government shutdown on scientists would depend in part on how long it would last. "Depending on its length, a shutdown could also disrupt ongoing experiments at federal agencies and delay grant payments to researchers at universities and research institutions," it says.

For now, the Chronicle of Higher Education says, NIH-funded researchers may be OK as the agency just completed one of its grant cycles, and the next one wouldn't be awarding funds until December or January. Research at NIH itself, though, would stop, the Chronicle adds.