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With 85% of its approximately 2000 workers on furlough, the National Science Foundation is closed for business. The NSF building in Arlington, VA. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NSF_building.jpg">NSF</a>
With 85% of its approximately 2000 workers on furlough, the National Science Foundation is closed for business. The NSF building in Arlington, VA. Photo: NSF

Shut-down hurts R&D economy

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The federal government shutdown has impacted funding for a range of research and development sectors.

A senior analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington DC says the interruption could have long-term effects on America's research-driven economy.

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Stephen Ezell says even if this shutdown just lasts another 24 hours, damage has already been done. “What it really represents is just one more instance in a long string of cases just showing really the failure of our federal government to invest consistently and predictably in scientific research.”

He says the lack of consistent support drives away many bright young researchers, both domestically and abroad. “What you’re seeing now at the national laboratories, for example, at many of these agencies, is researchers and scientific investigators just saying, ‘we’ve had enough.’ And they’re leaving government service, they’re going to academia, they’re going to the private sector. And so this really is going to have long term impacts.”

And, Ezell says, the uncertainty around federal research and development funding is likely to scare off international investors.

In the long term, he says, companies won’t see the US as a stable environment for R&D investment, and that will hurt the economy’s capacity to innovate, “They look at countries and ask, ‘ok, what do you have for us in terms of competitive tax code and pools of skilled talent, and stable support for scientific research and development?’ And the more countries and enterprises look at the United States and just see this isn’t an environment where you can do business on a principal basis.”

Ezell says the R&D sector is a soft target for funding cuts, but investments are needed now to enable firms, industries, and the national economy to compete.

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