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Tweeting Sequestration

As recent chatter and anecdotal evidence has begun to suggest that budget pains from the US federal budget sequester may be beginning to set in at universities and institutes around the country, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins is encouraging scientists to take to Twitter to describe how the 5 percent whack to the budget has impacted them.

"I want to hear how the #sequester is affecting your biomedical research right now," Collins tweeted on May 7.

Many of the response tweets reflect a research community in exasperation:

"I am no longer encouraging undergraduates to consider graduate school. No future in it."

"The [NIH sequester] makes me think, 'that's what doing science in Britain has been like for years.' Still very sad to hear, though."

"I am leaving the US to start a lab. Basic research can't be held hostage to short-term political games."

"I had to refuse to take a once-in-a-decade student this year due to the [sequester]. This one really hurt."

"Layoffs in companies that supply consumables and equipment in biomedical research labs [because the money] for supplies is gone."

"My former collaborator shut down his lab at HMS; 30+ years of research program came to a screeching halt."

The day after Collins launched the Twitter thread, NIH issued a notice officially recognizing that the sequester will cut around 5 percent of the agency's budget this fiscal year, compared with fiscal year 2013, to $29.15 billion. NIH also reiterated that most non-competing grants, many of which were funded at only 90 percent of the actual award level, are unlikely to see their full funding restored, and that it will probably make fewer competing awards this year than in fiscal 2012.

Writing in Science Insider, Jocelyn Kaiser noted that the sequester will result in a drop of around 703 competing research grants this year, and a fall of around 1357 total grants funded this year when the grants that are ending are included.

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