A presentation at a recent SLAC Users Group meeting included some of the following data about NSF support for HEP theory:
Theory funding (including cosmology and astro-particle physics) for FY 2008: \$11.68 million. For FY 2009, \$11.31 million + \$2.3 million from the stimulus legislation.
In FY 2008, these grants supported 128 senior personnel, 84 postdocs and 104 graduate students. For FY 2009 the numbers were 184 senior personnel, 50 postdocs and 70 graduate students.
During FY 2008, 24 out of 57 new submitted proposals were funded, 17 out 21 renewals were funded.
Group grants were categorized as 11 phenomenology, 11 strings, 2 cosmology, 1 general.
Individual grants were categorized as 17 cosmology, 12 strings, 9 phenomenology, 3 astrophysics, 2 lattice QCD, 3 general.
So, as far as NSF HEP grants go these days, if you’re not doing cosmology, string theory, or phenomenology, basically you’re out of luck…
NSF THY has a new program manager who started Oct. 1. It’s Keith Dienes of the University of Arizona, whose research in recent years has focused on the “string vacuum project”. He’ll be giving a colloquium at Fermilab next month on Probing the String Landscape, which is advertised with the abstract:
We are currently in the throes of a potentially huge paradigm shift in physics. Motivated by recent developments in string theory and the discovery of the so-called “string landscape”, physicists are beginning to question the uniqueness of fundamental theories of physics and the methods by which such theories might be understood and investigated.
Since the late eighties, the two institutions in the US most heavily invested in string theory have been Princeton and Rutgers. Recently they have been moving aggressively to try and diversify, especially in the direction of LHC phenomenology, with the hiring of Nima Arkani-Hamed at the IAS and Matt Strassler at Rutgers. Last year the two institutions collaborated on a proposal for a new Physics Frontier Center with a budget of \$1 million or so per year. This would be called the PARTICLE Center (Princeton And Rutgers Theory Institute for Collaboration with LHC Experiments) and would aim to be the main US center for LHC phenomenology. The proposal promoted the possibility of experimental anomalies to be discovered by the LHC in fall 2009, quickly followed by PARTICLE physicists inventing a model that would explain the data and predict a subtle effect that would require a new triggering strategy to see. The result of this would be a surprising measurement that would explain supersymmetry breaking.
Anyway, that proposal doesn’t appear to have been funded, with reviewers rather dubious about the idea of retraining Princeton and Rutgers string theorists as LHC phenomenologists, as well as the idea of devoting significant new resources to funding the Princeton and Rutgers theory groups, centralizing LHC phenomenology efforts there. However, two new year-long grants for \$130,000 each were awarded to Strassler and Arkani-Hamed, who promise to use them to “create the nucleus of an LHC center on the East Coast” at Princeton and Rutgers. One of the goals of these grants is listed as “to help in the process of … retraining postdocs from more formal areas of high-energy theory”, since the job market for young string theorists has more or less collapsed.