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What will science funding look like under Trump? Here’s one prediction.

Predictions are hard.
(Shutterstock)

Scientists are worried about a Donald Trump presidency — and with reason. Trump has bashed the National Institutes of Health. He’s denied global warming. He’s spread nonsense about vaccines. My colleague Brian Resnick wrote an in-depth story on this fear.

But the biggest, most consequential question of all is what a Trump presidency might mean for science funding. The federal government currently spends $150 billion or so per year on research and development (R&D), funding one-third of all science in this country — everything from cancer research to the fundamentals of cell biology to solar power to supersonic flight to how to reduce fertilizer use. We can thank federal research for things like microprocessors, the internet, GPS.

Yet Trump hasn’t given much indication of what he wants to do here. And Congress, which controls the R&D budget, has been inconsistent: Republicans originally pushed hard to slash the discretionary spending budget, which squeezed science. But they’ve let funding rise more recently.

One of the people following this issue most closely is Matt Hourihan, the director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He recently had a long series of tweets trying to game out what might happen with science funding. It’s complicated, but there’s decent reason to think some (though not all!) programs could survive the Trump era:

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