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“The reason NSF funded our work is that it has broad implications not just for understanding animal communication, but also for understanding the fundamental co-evolutionary dynamic between predators and prey,” he said.
He said the robotic squirrel cost just a few hundred dollars to build, and that most of the $390,000 four-year grant goes to support the university or the students who are helping with the research.
“NSF doesn’t make funding decisions lightly. Grants are reviewed in gory detail by a panel of experts from around the country who have no personal stake in the research,” Mr. Clark said. “They work very hard to identify and fund the projects that have the most significant intellectual merit and broad impacts.”
“Examples of this impact could include: not issuing continuation awards, or negotiating a reduction in the scope of your awards to meet the constraints imposed by sequestration,” NIH told researchers in a March 4 letter. “Additionally, plans for new grants or cooperative agreements may be re-scoped, delayed, or canceled depending on the nature of the work and the availability of resources.”
NIH said it funds only 17 percent of proposals it receives, and under the sequester that will drop further.
“I can’t tell the difference between a grant that scored at the 12 percentile and one that scored at the 18th percentile. They all look really good when you get down into that zone,” Dr. Collins, the NIH director, told reporters.
Other major federal R&D funders also warned of severe impacts.
EPA said it would cut 45 undergraduate and graduate research fellowships, NASA said it would have to delay its research into manned space exploration, and the Energy Department said up to 25,000 researchers at its national laboratories could face cuts.
Advocacy groups have sounded the alarm, rallying researchers to write letters to the editor and to call their members of Congress. But the sequesters appear to be here to stay.
Republicans and Democrats are trying to search for ways to offer flexibility to some agencies, but it’s unlikely that would blunt the deepest impacts on research.
President Obama has turned his attention to trying to reach a broad deal that would raise taxes and cut entitlement spending, but it’s unclear whether that would restore any of the discretionary funding that has been cut by the sequesters.
That puts the attention back on specific spending decisions by the Obama administration — an area where Mr. Coburn has offered plenty of suggestions.
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