Raleigh Researchers Lose Months of Work Due to Government Shutdown
Plant Science Research of Raleigh, NC, is a USDA funded facility which was forced to suspend operations because of the government shutdown, during which it lost months of research and thousands of plants. The facility serves as one of many examples highlighting how budget disagreements in Washington set back the nation as a whole, and why they should be kept separate from the continued operation of federally funded organizations.
NCSU Horticulture Student Hannah Fetzer and Alumni Tao Tuong are researchers who lost months worth of work during the shut-down. Their research focuses on developing agricultural products that are resistant to disease, climate change, and other risks that threaten the national food supply. Due to the nature of their work, four months to a year goes into cultivating a plant which has a critical observation period of several days. During the 4 week shut down, thousands of plants went through this period unobserved, rendering the time and resources to grow them wasted.
“During the shutdown, I basically was just allowed to water the plants,” states Tao, citing a strict set of guidelines that prohibited research under threat of a $5,000 personal fine. Of the 25 researchers at PSR, Tao was selected as the single essential employee with authorization to enter the facility during the shutdown. However, due to the regulations, he could only watch as his team’s research disappeared with each passing day.
“The loss of time is most discouraging” Tao says, outlining the lengthy process of creating, testing, and finally releasing agricultural products. It’s an effort that takes collaboration between multiple organizations, and a month long shutdown has the potential to delay food from reaching our tables for years. Additionally, many of the projects lost can only be conducted in the winter due to extreme summer temperatures, meaning that time is running out for them to be renewed. And even with these setbacks, the organization is still expected to publish it’s research at the end of the year per federal regulation.
“I try to focus on the research” Tao says earnestly, “I can’t pay attention to the news or social media without hearing about another shutdown, which would mean more lost time”
Situations like these are happening across the country. Of the many effects caused by the Government shutdown, the loss and interference of scientific research stands as one of the most underreported. With US Customs and Border Patrol and Robert Mueller’s Investigation being deemed as essential, shouldn’t ongoing scientific research be as well?
Currently, the Government is back in operation until at least February 15’th, and while researchers are back to being paid, they remain apprehensive for the future. The potential for another shutdown looms ahead, and prevents them from resuming their research for fear of losing it once again. Instead, they empty thousands of lost plants into garbage cans and make repairs on equipment left neglected over the past three weeks. There is little more they can do than stay hopeful.