There's no question younger scientists who have only really known the Bush presidency believe that Bush was a problem in science, despite the budget increases and the fact that a lot of really terrific science got done in the last 8 years - so they may not see that a stimulus package in science under a president everyone has enthusiasm for could be setting us up for the very same funding bubble (and collapse) that occurred under Bush.

If you're not young, you may be wondering why a stimulus package that has to be passed right now actually spends more in 2011 and 2012.   After all, if it's a long term spending project there should be a long term debate about it and what value it will bring and not be framed as a patriotic issue and saving the economy today.    In my mind, and I grant that I am older than many of the scientists heavily invested in the debate, a stimulus plan should accomplish short term goals - do you, scientists, want to be under short term pressure to create jobs and products that produce revenue? - and if it isn't a stimulus it should just be plain old government spending and treated as such and not a high-pressure sales pitch.   

The downside to a rush to spend?  Thanks to even typical government waste and not the kind when governments hand out suitcases of money - $275,000 for each job created or saved.   That's a lot of money, folks, and making your science funding a political football by being a part of it should be more terrifying than reassuring.   The government trough is a fickle one.

Not everyone agrees with me.

Shawn Otto at wrote, "I am writing to alert you to efforts underway this morning to zero out a large portion of the science funding from the Senate American Reinvestment and Recovery Act as a part of a $77.9B reduction effort led by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME). "

That is not the clearest writing so it merits clarification.    There was a proposal to scale back the windfall money in the stimulus spending package though his subject line in the email read "NSF to be zeroed out" - the NSF was due a $3 billion dollar windfall and that was proposed to be cut in half.    If you're a rational person, an extra $1.5 billion is good, though if they did actually end up with nothing, part of that will be their own fault, since they seem to be spending their time looking at porn rather than advancing science.

So which of you getting new NSF funding want to be responsible for saving the economy in 2009 with your research?

Jake Young at a site called Pure Pedantry is a fellow voice of reason and he goes one better by compiling relevant arguments from both Science and Nature so you don't have to bounce all over the place.   He notes Acting NIH Director Raynard Kington's statement that there would be a new call for proposals involving "topics in which there have been scientific or technical challenges" that might yield quick results with a blast of cash.

So which of you getting new NIH funding want to be responsible for saving the economy in 2009 with your research?  Why are we just discovering that a quick blast of cash is all science needs?  

John Marburger, Bush 43's leader of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said, "But it's short-term money. The great danger is creating facilities that no one can afford to operate."   Obviously he knows what he's talking about since he watched it happen and that is why there should be at least some consideration that invoking the patriotism of essential stimulus spending may end up being a bad thing for science.

Chris Rollins here at Welcome To My Moon Base, notes that not all of the $10 billion for science is going toward grants - some will be used to upgrade existing facilities and that certainly is a short term stimulus, like $900 million for Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source II.

But he points out that this is supposed to be an economic recovery plan and not a science recovery one.   Jake Young says the same thing:  "It seems to me that the euphoria over new money has overwhelmed our reason. Everyone take a deep breath. We are trying to engineer the long-term health of science, and that requires thinking past this budget cycle."

So be careful what you wish for.  Unless you have a project that can be completed in two years, you not only stand to have a funding bubble burst, you stand to incur a backlash for taking money under the pretense of a stimulus while knowing science rarely works on a convenient budget cycle.