Government Shutdowns Are a Disaster for Scientific Research

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NASA, the NIH and CDC were some of the biggest victims of the last government shutdown in 2013.

By Daniel Oberhaus | MOTHERBOARD

The US government has shutdown. After Senators were unable to agree on a budget plan—even a temporary one—on Friday, most government branches closed their doors until a compromise is reached.

Unfortunately, the scientific process doesn’t wait for politicians to resolve their differences. As such, government shutdowns have a particularly devastating effect on federally funded scientific research, as well as the citizens this research serves.

During government shutdowns, only “essential” government employees—those whose jobs are the most vital for the maintenance of government agencies—continue to show up to work. Essential employees are mainly those whose jobs directly involve the safety of human life or the protection of government property. Therefore, scientists employed by the US Geological Survey to monitor earthquakes will still be working, for example.

Every other government employee whose paycheck depends on the federal budget, and whose work is considered “non-expected” (read: non-essential), is put on unpaid leave until the shutdown ends. This includes the thousands of scientists employed by government agencies ranging from the National Park Service to the Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, and NASA.

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