Scientists may stop submitting proposals for studies that are
less likely to produce meaningful results but would produce
interesting, highly significant findings if they do, for example.
“There’s a tendency to go low risk, to avoid the high risk
but potentially high pay-off kind of research everyone would
like to do,” says Warren. “If the risks of doing it are greater than
the possible rewards because of the fiscal environment, it just
doesn’t get done.”
The impact will worsen the longer sequestration continues,
“We’re just moving into sequestration right now, so we’re
early in this,” he says. “It’s a slow-growing cancer whose effects
will accelerate over time and become a really serious disease
eating away at the system of research and research support we
have in this country.”
Sequestration has already had a major impact on the career
of psychologist Brent A. Moore, PhD.
Until this year, Moore was well on his way to a career as
a successful independent researcher intent on developing
automated treatments for substance abuse. Because his position
at Yale was entirely grant-funded, he had to seek a new job when
only one of his grant proposals got funded. He is now part of a
Veterans Administration team evaluating people with chronic
pain and opioid dependence and spends just 40 percent of his
time on his own research.
“ I’m not independent now,” says Moore, who is now a
research psychologist at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System
in addition to being an associate research scientist in the
psychiatry department at Yale University School of Medicine.
“My salary is being covered, and I’m grateful for that, but I’m
“They’re wondering how they’re going to pay not only for their
not able to just go and continue my own line of research.”
Still, Moore counts himself as one of the lucky ones, adding
that he’s hearing major concerns even among very well-
established researchers he would never expect to have trouble.
laboratories and the groups they’ve set up but also their own
salaries,” he says.
The result has been a flooding of the funding market, says
Moore. “People are putting in many more grants in the hopes
that something will hit,” he says. “ I don’t think that’s making for
APA and others are working to help ensure that long-term
damage doesn’t come to pass, pushing Congress to act and
educating the public about sequestration’s impact.
“Congress has to take action or sequestration keeps going for
10 years,” says Patricia Clem Kobor, senior science policy analyst
in APA’s Science Government Relations Office.
Among other efforts, APA has urged members of the
congressional Budget Conference Committee to safeguard
funding of interest to psychologists. In a November letter, for
instance, APA urged policymakers to replace sequestration
with a deficit-reduction plan that would allow for sustained
investment in such areas as education, research, health and
mental health services, training of mental and behavioral health
professionals and anti-poverty programs.
APA is also a member of the Coalition for Health Funding,
which along with other coalitions has launched an initiative
called NDD United to save nondefense discretionary (NDD)
programs from additional devastating cuts. APA co-sponsored an
NDD United report, released in November. “Faces of Austerity:
How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer and Less
Secure” describes the impact cuts have had on issues of concern
to psychologists, including a $2.3 billion cut to discretionary
education programs and $414 million cut to Head Start.
APA’s Div. 27 (Society for Community Research and
Action) is helping to ensure that the public and others know
about those cuts. The division has created an infographic
that explains sequestration, its impact and how people can
help. Div. 27 is encouraging its members to disseminate the
infographic and contact their legislators, says DePaul University
psychology professor Leonard Jason, PhD, who helped create
“Sequestration gets very complicated and it can take a lot
“The most vulnerable people are often the ones who have
of work to understand the issue,” says Madison Sunnquist,
a research assistant in Jason’s lab who helped create the
infographic. “Putting it into a visually pleasing, simple form can
help people understand it so they can take action.”
The infographic broadens the discussion beyond the impact
on psychologists and their research, adds Jason.
the least voice,” he says. “How do we speak for them — people
who are going to lose food stamps, Head Start and a host of
other programs that people in our society depend on?” n
Rebecca A. Clay is a writer in Washington, D.C.
• APA Div. 27 (Society for Community Research and
Action). (2013). “How sequestrable are you?” Available
• National Institutes of Health. (2013). “Fact sheet:
Impact of Sequestration on the National Institutes of
Health.” Available at www.nih.gov/news/health/jun2013/
• National Science Foundation. (2013). “Update
to important notice 133.” Available at www.nsf.gov/
pubs/2013/in133a/ in133a.jsp?WT.mc_ID=USNF_ 80.
• NDD United. (2013). “Faces of austerity: How budget
cuts have made us sicker, poorer and less secure.” Available