Probably the last thing Abby Powell did to close the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit office for the holidays was to close it indefinitely. This is what you hear when you call her office line now:
“Due to the lapse in appropriations, I am prohibited from conducting work as a federal employee, including returning phone calls and emails, until further notice.”
The countdown to the next launch of Rob Ferl’s plants into space has been halted by NASA furloughs. Blair Siegfried’s research on gene editing’s potential in pest control stopped because the lab with the equipment to do work on insect embryos is closed. It’s a USDA facility.
The land-grant system is based on partnership with the federal government. So, when Washington sneezes, we at UF/IFAS catch a cold.
The partnerships that make the land-grant system special also make it vulnerable. A blow to any of our collaborators can ripple through IFAS. We’re witnessing those ripples as the federal government heads into its fifth week of a partial shutdown.
There should be little surprise that agricultural science is among the shutdown’s casualties. It’s merely the latest demonstration of science held hostage to politics.
Delays or stoppages to our research are damaging. But like Rob told the Gainesville Sun, we feel especially bad for those people (such as Abby) who did not get their regular paycheck on Jan. 11.
I hope they will be permitted to return to work soon. I hope the labs will reopen. I hope stalled research projects can make up for lost time.
Then, I hope our healing nation can begin to see science for what it is -- the finest tool we’ve ever devised for seeking truth. That’s why, in more enlightened less fractious times, we invest in it in the first place.