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Warning on Funding

Nobel prize winners are sounding the alarm on science funding, the Boston Globe reports.

Rainer Weiss, a professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, won the Nobel Prize in physics this week for his work on the development of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. He says that his work, which began in the 1970s, benefitted greatly from government support: the US National Science Foundation initially supported the project with $40,000, an amount the Globe notes has now risen to $40 million a year.

"They took a hell of a gamble," Weiss tells the Globe, adding that "[w]e weren't sure what we would find."

But these days, Weiss says the funding situation for researchers is much more uncertain.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed a budget blueprint to scale back government, including cutting nearly 20 percent from the National Institutes of Health budget and implementing other decreases at the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among others. In September, Congressional lawmakers instead proposed an increase to the NIH budget.

Similarly, Brandeis University's Michael Rosbash, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine this week for his work on circadian rhythm, says he doesn't think he would have been funded in today's climate.

"We did the groundwork on this when funding was easier," Rosbash adds at the Globe. "I have my doubts now."