They Closed What? 10 Government Closings That Hurt Science
With the federal government shutting down as of Oct. 1, 2013, the science community can expect a number of disruptions while Congress wrangles over the new health care law and funding the federal government.
The overwhelming majority of NASA's employees will not be working, though some 600 or so will maintain missions in progress, such as the International Space Station and any craft already in operation. Also shutting down will be public components of the agency such as NASA TV broadcasting and the NASA website.
The NIH won't be accepting new patients for clinical trials, and it won't take hotline calls from anyone with a medical question.
Its website operations, too, will be hampered, with any submitted transactions possibly in limbo and information falling out of date. NIH researchers already funded will be able to continue their work for as long as their money lasts, and so long as they don't encounter any problems requiring website help that won't be available.
Los Angeles smog image via Shutterstock
The EPA will be shut down almost completely as well. It won't be working on any new draft regulations or enforcing existing environmental laws. A small staff will remain throughout the shutdown in case of an environmental disaster. Ongoing work on critical projects such as Superfund toxic cleanup sites will continue.
Well known for its mapping, the USGS collects and analyzes data about the nation's natural resources, providing a picture of our ecosystems and environment. Its 10,000 scientists, technicians and support staff are included in the government shutdown.
One program that won't stop is Landsat -- satellites that collect data about the surface of the Earth. Agriculture concerns use the program's data extensively. However, data collected by the satellites during the shutdown will only be beamed downward and archived: It won't be processed into useful data until the shutdown is over.
Earthquake and volcano monitoring will remain operational.
Researchers and the public at large will be unable to avail themselves of the Library of Congress (LOC) facilities. The library's website also has been shuttered, with the exceptions of its Thomas.gov and beta.congress.gov websites, both of which track the meanderings of legislation wending through Congress. Likewise, any public events surrounding the LOC have been cancelled.
Smithsonian National Zoo
Anyone who had plans to visit the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. this week will likely have to rethink their arrangements. The zoo is closed to visitors -- including closure of all vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle paths -- during the shutdown.
All of its live animal cameras, including its very popular "Panda Cam," will go dark for the duration as well. The shutdown will not affect the care and feeding of the zoo's animals.
U.S. National Park Service
Each of the nation's 401 national parks will be closed during the shutdown, and more than 21,000 park service employees will be furloughed until funding resumes. (A few thousand emergency and otherwise essential workers will remain to safeguard human life and property in the event of a crisis.)
Anyone who's already in a national park has been given 48 hours to get out, and park roads will be closed wherever possible.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been closed and most of its staff furloughed. The agency will have a sharply diminished ability to track infectious disease outbreaks or process lab work. Similarly, it won't be able to run its annual flu vaccine program, nor will it be at full strength in its tracking of diseases such as the virus MERS, which has killed dozens of people in Saudi Arabia.
The agency will keep its emergency operations center running, at a reduced capacity but able to ramp up quickly in the event of a serious outbreak.
All 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries -- including the Air and Space Museum, the National History Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and the American Art Museum -- are closed during the shutdown.
Science grant funds will be tougher to apply for and access at the moment. The National Science Foundation is closed and will not be making payments to researchers while the shutdown is in place. New NSF grant applications will likely be delayed as well.