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Congress cuts NSF funding

The New York Times reports that in 2002 Congress voted to double the National Science Foundation's budget over the next five years, but now they've actually cut the amount from what it was last year [via Dave Farber's IP list].

[T]he cut came as lawmakers earmarked more money for local projects like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Punxsutawney Weather Museum in Pennsylvania....

Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said the cut was "the most Luddite provision" in the entire bill.

Republicans who helped write the measure said the reduction was a necessary part of an overall effort to hold down domestic spending.

Congress, with bipartisan support, doubled the budget of the National Institutes of Health from 1998 to 2003, and Mr. Bush often takes credit for completing that increase. But Mr. Obey said that biomedical research was "heavily dependent on basic initial research done by agencies like the National Science Foundation."...

While cutting the budget of the science foundation, Congress found money for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham, the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, bathhouses in Hot Springs, Ark., and hundreds of similar projects.

The science foundation helped finance research that led to Web browsers, like Internet Explorer and Netscape, and to search engines like Google. Its research has produced advances in fields from astronomy to zoology, including weather forecasting, nanotechnology, highway safety and climate change....

Todd C. Mesek, a spokesman for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is receiving $350,000, said the money would be well spent on education programs to teach children about language, the mathematics of music and geography ("cities where rock and roll was fostered"). Some of the money, Mr. Meek said, will be used for "toddler rock," a music therapy program.

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