Science stimulus

After a month investigating, or at least poking around on, the topic of stimulus money coming to the greater Seattle area, I had trouble finding any great stories.

Yes, as I reported on KPLU, there’s money to clean-up diesel pollution around the ports.  And, there’s a decent chunk of funding for Community Health Centers (which serve low-income and uninsured people).  And, as Sandy Doughton reported, faculty at the U.W. will get plenty of additional NIH research funding.

But, I was looking for the big legacy projects, something akin to the fine parks structures built by FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.  As I said in my clinics story, the federal stimulus money is “more of a cushion to soften the crash,” than a spark to create something new.

Maybe the U.W. will build a great new science lab that was only a pipe dream before.

Other beat reporters at KPLU have found similar tales when it comes to stimulus money and public housing, and public schools.  In order to get the money spent quickly, it is paying for projects that were already planned and would have happened anyway, eventually.  The stimulus makes them happen more quickly.  Or else, instead of creating jobs, it’s preserving work that would have been eliminated by budget cuts elsewhere.

I’m not saying it’s bad to preserve jobs from the chopping block, or speed up a construction schedule.  It just makes it hard a decade from now to point to something and say, That’s the legacy of what the federal government did during the Great Recession.

Stimulus money may rescue researchers, clinics

I’m digging for details on where federal stimulus money may end up, in the realms of health care and science, here in the Seattle area.   So far, still more questions than answers.  But, here are two examples:

– Community medical clinics.  There is money set aside to help these clinics survive the double-whammy of more people in need of free or subsidized coverage, while budgets are being slashed.   Tom Trompeter, the CEO for the HealthPoint clinics in King County says he expects some of the money will be for expanding services, to reach new clients.  He’s also hopeful that funding for Medicaid will increase, which would be the simplest way to support these clinics.

– Bio-medical researchers.  A big boost in funding went to the National Institutes of Health ($10.4 billion total), and the U.W. is one of the leading recipients of NIH grants.  One scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center said last week she was already re-formulating some proposals that had missed the funding cut last time around.  One chunk of the NIH money will be spent on construction — new labs and equipment.

There are a lot of new deadlines for proposals.  Some research funding cutoffs are as soon as June, while the construction grant proposals are due by September.

If you’ve heard of stimulus money flowing to any local institutes or organizations, please share.