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Scientific research would take a big hit under Trump's budget — and that's bad for the economy, experts say

Scientific research would take a big hit under Trump's budget — and that's bad for the economy, experts say
UC Irvine researcher Murat Aydin cleans cutting fluid off an ice core to prepare it for storage as part of the South Pole Ice Core project, which is funded by the National Science Foundation. Trump's proposed budget would cut the foundation's funding by 11%. (Mike Lucibella / National Science Foundation)

How does science fare under President Trump's proposed budget?

Not too well.

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The American Assn. for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) estimated that the budget released Tuesday morning represented a 16.8% decrease in overall funding for scientific research compared with the current budget.

The proposed cuts include:

  • 11% reduction to the National Science Foundation

  • 22% cut to the National Institutes of Health

  • 17% reduction to the Department of Energy’s Office of Science

  • 70% cut to the Energy Department’s energy efficiency and renewable energy research

The White House dubbed the budget proposal "The New Foundation for American Greatness," but that's not how the research community sees it.

"What we see is not just a reduction in government programs," said Rush Holt, a former congressman who heads AAAS. "What we see is a failure to invest in America."

He said science and research have been a source of economic growth for the country as well as the primary driver of improvements in public health, energy, agriculture and overall quality of life as well as the nation's economic well-being.

"Funding science is not just about the employment of scientists," he said. "Science and technology have been the source of economic growth for decades."

Norm Augustine, the former chairman and chief executive of Lockheed Martin Corp., said that if the authors of this budget expect industry to start paying for the basic research that is essential for technological innovation, then they should think again.

"Candidly, shareholders are not interested in funding research which tends to be costly, very long term and very risky," he said. "Yet research is a public good … and the rewards tend to go to the public as a whole. Therefore research really warrants government support."

Do you love science? I do! Follow me @DeborahNetburn and "like" Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.

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