Scientists in the United States can find plenty of good news as they page through President Barack Obama's 2013 budget proposal. Despite substantial cuts elsewhere — and fierce pressure from Republicans to cut more — Obama called for healthy overall increases in both fundamental research and science education (see page 283).
But the good news, of course, is tempered by reality. Obama's budget document is one long struggle to balance two contradictory goals: to stimulate the lagging US economy and to curb the annual budget deficit, which is more than US$1 trillion. Science and science education are widely viewed as helping with the first, and will doubtless continue to be seen as such no matter who wins November's presidential election. The idea that science is a driver of prosperity is one of the few things on which the United States' bitterly divided political parties still agree. But the science funding agencies themselves are by no means immune to the second goal. The harder the cuts bite, the more those agencies will have to streamline their operations and merge or terminate programmes. more