Money For Everything

It now appears that the final US stimulus bill will include very large amounts of spending on scientific research. See here for a copy of the conference agreement. It has $3 billion for the NSF, $1.6 billion for the DOE office of science, and $1 billion for NASA. These amounts are to be spent on top of the regular budgets (about $6 billion for NSF, about $1.6 billion for DOE office of science, as well as $400 million for ARPA-E, and $17 billion for NASA). Basically, the government agencies responsible for funding math and physics research are receiving a one-time influx of money, of order half their annual budget, to be spent as quickly as possible. It will be very interesting to see what they do with it…

Update: More here.

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17 Responses to Money For Everything

  1. First it was billions, then it was zero, now it is billions again. The bill has still not actually passed. Dare we be excited yet?

  2. Peter Woit says:


    It wasn’t ever zero, although the Senate version had much less in it for science than the House version. Whatever comes out of the House-Senate conference will be the final bill, and should pass. The document linked to and information released by Pelosi’s office claims these are the numbers in the conference version, but the bill has not been completely finalized. So it remains possible that things will change, but it looks most likely now that this is what is going to pass.

  3. Yatima says:

    Yeah well, the first thing to do is transform the cash into something other than USD in order to have a safe stash when inflation decides to go hyper. Otherwise, excellent news.

  4. Alp says:

    Maybe someone should distribute this money to researchers as “bonus” before most of them leave to become quants.

  5. drunk says:

    Just because they put a budget together does not automatically mean there is money. US federal gov is already in technical bankruptcy, deep in deficit and debt. Even the interests must be borrowed. Every cent of this budget must be borrowed, or printed out of thin air. Or taxed. Are they going to tax people another $1T? Are there any more foreigners stupid enough to loan the US gov one more dollar after being screwed big time by Wall Street and see their own economies crashed by the spread of the US the financial crisis globally? So the Federal Reserve is going to print another $1T, after printing $2T last year, thus inflate the economy and reduce the worth of all USD by the same amount. This budget is a lot of smoke folks.

  6. Coin says:

    Ryan: The House has passed the conference version. The Senate votes at 5:30 eastern time.

  7. Peter Woit says:


    There are a thousand places on the internet now full of people having the same unenlightening discussions about economics. Please don’t do the same thing here. If it’s not specifically about math/physics, it doesn’t belong here.

  8. Coin says:

    So, I am incredibly relieved to see that this funding made it back into the final bill. I wonder, though: It seems like I’ve been repeatedly told that between funding tricks, “continuing resolutions” and failure to correct for inflation, the budgets for these science funding agencies have been basically effectively falling for years. So we give them a 50% one time boost from their current budget– where does that put them in relation to the budget they really ought to have if science budgets hadn’t been getting shafted lately?

    Something I find interesting, from that link it looks like the NIH gets nearly 2/3 of the additional science funding, like ten billion dollars altogether. Is this interesting or does it just reflect that the NIH has a larger grant budget to begin with?

  9. Peter Woit says:


    It’s just not accurate to say that science funding has been falling for years. For the NSF, take a look at

    Ignore the 2009 data point, which corresponds to an increase for physics that didn’t happen,

    Total math + physics NSF funding has been basically flat (in constant dollars) for many years. From what I remember math has seen some increases, HEP has decreased in constant dollars. The problems of HEP are somewhat specific to the field, not indicative of the overall science-funding pattern.

    The NIH is much bigger than the NSF, spending about $30 billion on medical research vs. the NSF $6 billion. This is not surprising. Voters are much more interested in figuring out how to avoid a painful death from disease than in understanding the origin of electroweak symmetry breaking.

  10. chickenbreeder says:

    The money distributed through the stimulus bill has to be spent within 120 days (the point being to give the economy a jolt.) This means it will not benefit people who are just about to submit a proposal to NSF. The money will likely be used to fund proposals that have already been reviewed and deemed “fundable if funds are available”. If you have one of those in the hands of your NSF program manager this may indeed be a god-sent. Otherwise, it’s not that useful. I believe this is also the situation with other basic research programs at NASA, DOE, etc.

  11. grant pending says:

    chickenbreeder, where did you see that, and how exactly does it (120 day time limit) apply to NSF?

  12. grant pending says:

    Okay I found one, though it’s a month old, and may not be up to date.

  13. Steven Colyer says:

    How much of the $$$ do you think will be pumped into even stronger battle-ready infra-red lasers at Sandia or DARPA, not that any of us will ever know of it?

  14. mike says:

    So it doesn’t seem to be mentioned here, but is there some consensus that the money to DOE and NSF will then stimulate QFT or mathematical physics research? Will string theory be revived from this (similar to how an infusion of steam causes bacteria to grow faster)?

  15. Peter Woit says:


    I don’t think anyone knows yet how DOE and NSF plan to spend the money. I’ve heard speculation that one thing that may happen is that they’ll be funding a higher proportion of grants, i.e. grants that would have not quite made the cut under the regular budget now will be funded. If this is true, all subfields will see more grants, but this shouldn’t change the relative distribution of resources among different topics.

    So, one guess would be that the stimulus package will mean more postdocs (which are funded by grants) in all subfields, including string theory. Tenure-track jobs may be a different story, since they are typically funded by university budgets, not grant money. I don’t see any reason for the recent trend of physics departments wanting phenomenologists and cosmologists rather than string theorists and mathematical physicists to change.

  16. hungry for updates says:

    News? Rumors? Anything?

  17. Peter Woit says:

    A more recent posting gives the FY2009 numbers that have just been decided on, and the overall FY2010 number proposed for NSF.

    Basically NSF and DOE now have a lot more money to spend than usual. As far as I can tell, they still haven’t decided what to do with it. The job situation is bad, so I hope they figure out how to fund some positions for young people for the next academic year.

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