Friday, February 10, 2006

Budget Watch, contd., and the Future

Wow, there's a lot of action on science budgets these days. From Bush's State of the Union address, which announced the "American Competitiveness Initiative" (which proposes to double the science budget over the next 10 years) to its manifestation in the 2007 President's budget, which has manifest itself as huge increases to projects near-and-dear to Brookhaven.

The AAAS released an analysis of the budget here, with a choice quote:
The Department of Energy (DOE) would enjoy substantial increases for its energy and science R&D portfolios in 2007, an unusual turn of events for a department that has mostly seen flat budgets in recent years (see Figure 6). The DOE Office of Science (OS) would emerge as the clear winner in the 2007 budget with a 14 percent increase to $3.8 billion for its R&D portfolio centered around the physical sciences. The largest OS programs would all receive increases of 8 percent or more, including a dramatic 24 percent boost for Nuclear Physics after a decade of stagnant funding, a 36 percent increase for computing research, a 25 percent increase for Basic Energy Sciences centered around several large-scale facilities, and a 31 percent increase for the core life sciences research portfolio. Although these increases would help BES, computing research, and nuclear physics reach new highs, high-energy physics, fusion, and biological and environmental research would remain below previous years’ funding levels because of years of eroding budgets.
What a rollercoaster, from the World Year of Physics presenting us with the worst budget in a while, with many gloom-and-doom predictions for the future, to an enormous "bounce" (hope not a "dead-cat" bounce...) and a rosy outlook. But people should keep in mind that a 24% increase relative to 2006 doesn't translate into a huge increase if one averages over the last few years: it's only 15% above the 2005 budget, and inflation depreciates all funding by 3-4% a year, so it's really equivalent to a real 8% increase -- not peanuts to be sure, but it certainly does not sound as whopping as 24%!

This was echoed today by a short presentation by Directory Chaudhari presenting how the budget will directly affect BNL. He reported the robust RHIC budget, promising a 34 week run (not 30 as I mentioned previously), funding for RHIC II-related work (i.e. EBIS, the new ion source), R&D funding for NSLS II (which will be another major facility here, with QCDLab, if it gets sited here) and full funding of the Center for Functional Nanomaterials. All good news, but not nearly as striking as the projections for the lab's future, predicated on these increases. If all goes well, the general shrinking of personnel and near-constant funding levels over the last 5 years will reverse over the next 4-5 years, with the lab's funding increasing by 40% and employment increasing by over 10% over the next five years. Amazing prospects.

1 comment:

Quantoken said...

I am afraid you have greatly under-estimated the inflation factor to just 3-4%. If you are talking about average consumer products like food, medicine, clothes, electronics, maybe it's just 3-4%. But for your industry the main expenditure is ENERGY, which sees some skyrocketing price in recent years and could only grow much higher in the next few years.

I do not see how the $138 million budget can support you to run RHIC for 34 weeks in 2007. Not a chance. According to your number the 2006 budget level of $110 million would have allowed you only 13 weeks run time of RHIC. $138M is only $28M extra. That amount will not allow you to run RHIC for 21 more weeks, even without consideration of inflation.

The electricity power consumption of RHIC is 100 mega watts (or maybe more?). At current electricity retail cost of 12 cents per kilowatt hour, you are talking about $2M per week just to pay the electricity bill!!! The electricity is only 6 cents per kilowatt hour just 2 years ago, and I expect it to grow to at least 15 or 18 cents per kilowatt hour, as we are entering an un-precedent energy crisis, especially on natural gas.