Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How has the sequester affected you?

The director of the NIH, Francis Collins, has asked the question on Twitter:
I want to hear; tell me how the #sequester is affecting your biomedical research right now. Use #NIHSequesterImpact
Click here to see how others are answering; lots of cancelled postdocs, affected science, etc.

So I am curious -- how has the sequester affected you, readers? Please tell me in the comments.

(I hope that you are not too much affected, but I am guessing that is not the case. Sorry.)  


  1. Well at least my flights last two weeks from LGA and JFK were unaffected (though, to be clear, the choice of wines in business class was sub-par: DAMN YOU sequester!).

    Glad to see the government can get together to come up with a stopgap solution to a problem they deliberately created, that was caused by their own inability to govern like adults. That FAA sequestering disproportionately affected the well-off affects how we're all hurting. We've been suffering too long in this country, and if I'd had to wait an extra 30 minutes in the Admirals club, well, I don't even want to imagine that.....

    1. Death to the 1% that have MBAs!!! (Phew, good thing I decided not to go get that MBA before the whole 'Death to the MBAs' meme -- that I think I just made up). Just a question though bboooooya, when the angry mob comes to ransack your mansion, can you tell me where the video game systems are stored, so that I can go to the proper location right away?

  2. Well, pretty much I have made my career as a poorly paid PhD surviving on soft money from NIH grants (RO1) for about 15 years in a major state R1 university. It seems inevitable that I will lose my job in a few years because I doubt if our lab can compete at a 5% NIH funding rate--the low rate is due to the sequester, in part. 10 years ago I would have been able to find a job in another lab, but now up to 80% of faculty in certain biomedical science depts in my university have no major grant to hire anyone, so it seems like finding another job as a poorly paid PhD in academia will be difficult, plus I will have to compete with the hordes of cheap PhD immigrant labor who also lost their jobs as well.

    I guess what I am seeing in science is that the further up the status scale you can go (grad student, post doc at top 10 schools, work for NAS members), then the more time you can stay doing science. But if you didnt make it that high there is a good chance you will be cast off early and have to retrain.

    Like could be worse. I could be living in Syria. I suspect pretty soon we will have Syrian science students in our PhD programs soon enough to escape another fallen society, making things even more competitive.

  3. I was a postdoc turned contractor for an Army lab. They created a position for me, I applied, learned I was selected...two days after the start of the Army-wide hiring freeze put in place in preparation for the sequester. I came within 4 days of having my contract expire without a renewal. I'm still a contractor now through September, "patiently" awaiting this freeze to lift. There are funds to keep me as a contractor past September, but you never know right now. It sucks, but at least I'm not out on my @$$

  4. The curious world of Beltway budgeting where sequestration involves no real spending cuts--only growth rate reductions. Spending is increased this year, sequester or not.




  5. I think maybe the sequestration will finally put my attempt at a career in science out of it's misery. My postdoc is on the bubble and there's a good chance I will be unemployed come July. Meanwhile I've been through 2 fruitless rounds of the academic hiring cycle. I get depressed going to conferences, because I meet colleagues from top 5 programs with killer CVs who are giving up on science. I feel sorry for our department's assistant profs, because they don't stand a chance at getting tenure because they can't get any grants, not for lack of trying or skill or publications.
    I've applied to as many industry jobs as there are available around me and the only response I've gotten is from an HR bot to take a personality test and take quizzes that would insult the intelligence of a middle schooler. I even have previous industry experience, but I an unable to even get an interview for what I used to do for a living.
    Then as many here have probably experienced, friends and family don't understand what your problem is because they keep hearing in the news that companies desperately need people with science and math backgrounds (There's a STEM shortage, don't you know?).
    But that's okay because things are looking up according to the media, because the number of jobs is increasing (they don't tell you that the number of hours worked is decreasing) and housing prices are increasing (they don't tell you that home ownership rates are decreasing).
    Anyway, that's my swan song. Excuse me while I go use my science and math skills to optimize my resume for the HR screening software so I can begin my first of 30 interviews with Target to be assistant shopping cart wrangler (part time, of course).

    1. I suspect that the number assistant professor positions offered by R1 universities will further decline as income from grants to the departments drop and deadwood faculty who pull $100 K a year or more in salary and yet no longer have active labs accumulate. If older faculty would retire when they lose money, it would help the situation, but most refuse to retire until their very old (say 75). The next decade will be interesting times in academic science

    2. Been there with the family and friends thing. They think I should have recruiters calling me up, begging me to accept a position. What's wrong with me?

    3. Try industry. Shooting for an academic job is often a waste of time.

  6. This is all a test, or a trap, by Collins. I get him, so I'm going to use the excuse that I don't use twitter. If you can't answer how the sequester has affected you in 140 characters, you probably don't deserve an NIH/NSF grant. Let's face it, you were never going to properly answer Lamar Smith's criteria of:

    “advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare” and “secure the national defense” of the United States. The NSF must certify that each funded project is of “the finest quality, is groundbreaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society of large.”

    Answer properly enough so that Lamar Smith understands it in 140 characters that is.

  7. I don't use twitter, but I had a coworker whose DARPA project was not given the chance for renewal due to the sequester.