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Science Stalls During Shutdown


As the government shutdown moves into its third week, it is difficult to ignore the vast negative impact it is having on science and research. From NASA and NOAA, to NIH, the FDA, and beyond laboratories are shut and research has been put on hold and in many instances, once the window for conducting this research is missed it cannot be completed. Scientific America reported that this scenario is especially true for environmental and climate studies. So, what does the shutdown mean for users of geospatial data?

  • Data is Unavailable
    There is no segment of human activity that doesn’t have at least some reliance on the datasets provided by NASA, NOAA, and USGS. Our decisions for commercial, civil,and military activities at home and around the world depend on accurate information about earth’s land, air, and water. USGS, NOAA, and NASA are all closed. All three are data providers and with their websites offline, data cannot be accessed. Additionally, NOAA operates the National Geodetic Survey, which provides essential services to maintain public safety,transportation, and infrastructure, affecting access to data from the NGS CORS sites.
  • Access to Geospatial Information Product
    In addition to restricted access to federal data, analysis and information derived from Federal data are also not available. Information is only available by skeleton crew if lives and property are in immediate risk (https://www.usgs.gov/emergency-operations-portal and www.weather.gov).
  • Future Geospatial Programs
    Many future geospatial programs have been delayed at a minimum, with permanent loss or cancellation as consequences for a longer-term shutdown. For example, it’shard to find something more critical than water. The US-Japanese Global Precipitation Measurement Mission, which would be capable of giving humans the first global view of how, when, and where precipitation is happening, is sitting in “safe mode” at Goddard Space Flight Center, while the February launch date and all the attendant deadlines march closer.
  • Loss of Knowledge,Expertise, and Competitive Advantage
    Under sequestration, cutting-edge geospatial work was at best a break-even endeavor.Under shutdown, it is simply a losing proposition. Science, including geospatial work, is not going to stop. The people who lead those fields will find ways to continue, however they just won’t be getting direct access to Federal geospatial resources and won’t be working for the benefit to the US public. Grants,the engine that runs research in the US, have halted. For instance, NSF programs in the Antarctic have stopped, and personnel have been flown back from the stations.
  • Geospatial Data and Tech Business Slowed
    I can’t legally meet with my colleagues and customers at NASA, NOAA, USGS, BLM, Fish and Wildlife, NPS, USDA, USFS, et al. Those meetings are where we get information to make our products better for all our customers. They mean getting better tools in to the hands of researchers and technicians and information in to the hands of businesses and the public. They mean revenue for us now and in the future. And it is all at an indefinite standstill with mounting and fearsome consequences.

Hopefully in the coming days there will be respite from this shutdown and science of all types can get back to work.