Elias Zerhouni: I think the suddenness of [the sequester] and the depth of it would be a disaster for research, which is not an activity that you can turn on and off from year to year. It’s an activity that takes time. The most impacted are the young, new investigator scientists, who are coming into science, and will now abandon the field of science. There will be a generational gap created.
My timing could not be better: I have a career-critical grant due for review in March, right after the sequester takes effect. An immediate 8% cut to the NIH budget, on top of the other things that get more expensive or harder to get thanks to the inevitable government FUBAR, will pretty much guarantee that everyone with their hats in the ring this year will have a very bad grant cycle.
Not being completely daft, I chased every alternative out there: postdocs, core facilities, sales, whatever. Thanks to the uncertain climate (and then some) even researchers with money have sphincters that could crush a diamond. I know a couple folks offering grunt-level facility jobs who have binders full of candidates including funded senior researchers and the directors of other facilities just because it’s a safe position in a non-university medical institution where the loss of NIH money will not cause quite so much blood loss. Another place slightly closer to what I’d call a dream job took four months to choose and fly in four finalists, including me, and then decided their budget didn’t support hiring anybody (of course you can interpret that a couple of ways).
The scary thing is that my paper output and research skills do stand out among people at my level (H-index of 9 at the postdoc level, if anyone’s counting). So if I have gone six months and counting with a cloud of doom over my head, science really will need to grapple with the fallout from a ‘lost’ generation of people like me who very much would like to have pursued a career in research science.