A question mark remains over funding for NIH and other science agencies as new fiscal year begins without proper budgets

The budgets of US science agencies including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation remain in limbo, even as the government’s new fiscal year 2015 began on 1 October. Congress adjourned in September to campaign for the mid-term elections without passing a budget for any federal agency, and won’t return to work until 12 November.

However, lawmakers did pass a stopgap spending bill – known as a ‘continuing resolution’ – that extends the current fiscal year 2014 funding levels for the government through 11 December, 2014. President Obama signed this into law on 19 September to prevent the government from shutting down like it did last year. Nevertheless, once Congress returns it will only have a month to resolve party differences and pass an actual spending bill that funds the entire government.

In the meantime, NIH has announced that research grant awards due for renewal will be funded at about 10% less than the committed level. Once the fiscal year 2015 appropriations are enacted, upward adjustments will be considered, but NIH expects research institutions to ‘monitor their expenditures carefully’ during this period.

‘I am sure we will see other steps by agencies to rein in funding in the interim,’ says Matthew Hourihan, who directs the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s R&D budget and policy programme. ‘It is not ideal, but these are small and temporary changes,’ he tells Chemistry World. Nevertheless, he stresses that it is tough for research agencies to plan when they don’t know their full year budgets until well after the fiscal year has commenced.