Shutdown Affects Scientific Community More Than a Dark Panda Cam

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Screenshot of a scientist’s tweet on the shutdown.

By XiaoZhi Lim
BU News Service

Day 3 of shutdown. Three days without the panda cam. But many scientists and researchers barred from work can’t care less; the panda cam is the least of their worries. Here are some examples from a Reddit discussion.

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Why aren’t scientists taking these few days off and just relaxing? Well, other than the fact that they also need to be paid so that they can pay rent and buy food, a lot of scientific work, especially fieldwork, is time-dependent. Work is halted, yes, but for scientists studying animal reproductive behavior to cite an example, the animals aren’t going to wait.

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For insects consuming trees in a forest, they’re not going to stop eating.

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For planets in orbit, well just try and stop them. At least, good for this researcher who got extra time with his/her baby. And quite a sickening one –

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From another Reddit discussion focusing on how just the NIH is affected, here’s another comment along similar lines.

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Brad Plumer’s blog post in the Washington Post described how some 30 children with cancer who need to be accepted as new patients in NIH will be turned away each week. Beyond that, how about the fact that the CDC will not be able to monitor seasonal flu activity at the start of flu season? Good thing I got my flu shot last week.

And I haven’t even mentioned the EPA, or FDA, or even collaborative work between the States and other countries. During the shutdown, furloughed scientists and researchers won’t even have access to their emails, so any collaborations that they have with researchers in other countries will be impacted. I won’t be surprised if many of them just switched to using personal email accounts to continue working with their collaborators. The longer-lasting effect however, as described in this article from Phys.org, will be that the U.S. will be seen as less reliable, and therefore ‘less desirable’ for collaborative work. Imagine if the U.S. were left out from research on the Higgs Boson.

When the panda cam goes live again, hopefully the baby panda will still be there. But for the furloughed scientists and researchers, let’s hope that the time they lost in this shutdown will not cost more than what money can buy.

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Posted by: Cassie Martin on