Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:
If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
Cortaro, AZ 85652
The partial government shutdown appears to be causing problems for some researchers, some of it fake and some of it real.
The article doesn’t put it that way. Instead, it sells the shutdown as a terrible tragedy, blocking all work by scientists, a claim that simply isn’t true if you read the article honestly.
The real problems include cases where the closure of government buildings prevents scientists from accessing their labs or research samples. The fake problems include things like this:
Rattlesnakes, bears, hurricanes, and freezing weather haven’t stopped ecologist Jeff Atkins from taking weekly hikes into Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park for the past 8 years to collect water samples from remote streams. But Atkins is now facing an insurmountable obstacle: the partial shutdown of the U.S. government, in its third week.
Park managers have barred Atkins from entering since 22 December 2018, when Congress and President Donald Trump failed to agree on a deal to fund about one-quarter of the federal government, including the National Park Service. That has shut down the sampling, part of a 40-year-old effort to monitor how the streams are recovering from the acid rain that poisoned them in past decades.
There is no reason this scientist can’t enter the park and get his samples. In fact, Trump administration policy has kept the national parks open, even if no one is working there. I am thus very suspicious of the claim that he is “barred” from entering.
Then there are claims that government scientists are forbidden from attending conferences. Bah. They aren’t slaves. If the conference is that important, they should go on their own dime. And if they aren’t willing to go, it makes me suspect their work is not that important. In fact, I know this, as I have watched many government scientists attend conferences merely to tout the wonderful things their government agency is accomplishing, not to really report on science.
The article also makes a big deal about the loss of pay to these individual scientists. My heart bleeds. For one thing, as government workers they are generally paid at a far higher rate, with many more benefits, than most taxpayers, who for the past decade have been suffering far worst economic times. These government scientists can afford the loss of pay for a few weeks.
For another, based on what has happened after all other previous shutdowns, Congress will approve their pay during this time, meaning this shutdown is really nothing more than an extra paid vacation for them.
I thus find myself having little sympathy for these scientists. In fact, the facts in this article make me inclined to think the taxpayer might benefit from getting rid of them all.