My academic research laboratory runs exclusively on Federal research grants to cover all operating costs. Today I got this email from the director of the Office of Sponsored Programs at my University.

The federal FY07 appropriations have not been finalized and the government is operating on continuing budget resolutions. Because of this, NIH is making a 20% cut in all continuing awards. We have also received a new award that is being made with a delayed start date, as well as a 20% cut. These have applied to NIH awards, but the continuing budget resolutions affect all federal agencies. Though awards may be restored to original levels, appropriations may not be finalized until after the holidays, and there is a good chance of continuing budget cuts. I urge you to start making preliminary plans in the case that you do not receive full funding. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or your OSP project administrator.

In my case 20% is approximately $50,000 per year (e.g. one person’s salary + fringe) in spending reductions. Ouch. Hopefully, these cuts will not be permanent. When I started my laboratory, the top 20% of grants had a good chance of being funded. In the current environment, only the top 7 to 10% of grants have any chance of being awarded. It’s an exciting time to be a scientist.