Fears for science amid US shutdown

American scientists are scrambling to preserve vital research programmes amid the US government funding shutdown. Key projects investigating ice loss in Antarctica are among those at risk as plans for fieldwork are stalled.
If the expeditions do not go ahead, it could jeopardise investigations that have gathered data over decades.
Medical research, including studies of degenerative disease, is also held up as government-employed scientists have been sent home.
The case of the National Science Foundation is typical of many US funding bodies – it has closed its front door and no-one is answering calls or emails. Websites of the likes of Nasa are redirecting to holding pages.
The chief concern among scientists is that long-running projects monitoring change could now be harmed by a sudden break in the flow of data.
One major initiative known as IceBridge – which uses aircraft to study the edges of the ice-sheet in West Antarctica, and is regarded as crucial for understanding future sea-level rise – has been delayed by two weeks already.
The planes are fitted with laser and radar systems to measure the height of the ice sheet as it approaches the coast – and gathering annual data is essential for researchers trying to understand patterns of change.
The plan for the approaching field season in Antarctica was to operate the plane from landing strips on the ice but this will become impossible later next month as temperatures rise with the Southern Hemisphere summer, potentially putting at risk the entire season’s fieldwork.