I hope this question does not offend our American fellows.

I've read in news that the US government is partially closed and many agencies and services run by US federal government is no longer available, for example national parks, many websites, etc. I was wondering if this temporary government shutdown has any negative effects on academic life in US?

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    Somewhat related: academia.stackexchange.com/q/8061/2700 – F'x Oct 2 '13 at 13:09
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    This is a great question; I don't see how it could offend anyone. (At least, I'm American, and I'm certainly not offended.) – Nate Eldredge Oct 2 '13 at 19:31
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    This is UCS take on it. – gerrit Oct 3 '13 at 9:11
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    Unless the shutdown lasts for a very long time, I suspect the long-term affects will be minimal. Shutdowns happen often enough – due to snowstorms, hurricanes, power outages, and so forth. When these happen, there are some annoying delays, and then everyone gets caught up. I think there's a good chance this will "fix itself" in a similar way, sometime down the road. – J.R. Oct 3 '13 at 22:26
  • @J.R. There absolutely are long-term and career-level effects of this shutdown. See nature.com/news/…. There may be even larger-scale implications than one persons career. For example, our plan to get geothermal heat flux measurements from under Antarctica, a key parameter in ice sheet behavior (and therefore sea level rise), has been cancelled this year. – mankoff Oct 18 '13 at 20:23

It definitely has. And by that, it has an impact even on academic life outside of the US. One of the most important data and literature resource in medical and life science is the US National Center for Biotechnology Information, running for example the literature database PubMed. Now it has a statement on its website saying

Due to the lapse in government funding, the information on this web site may not be up to date, transactions submitted via the web site may not be processed, and the agency may not be able to respond to inquiries until appropriations are enacted.

Concerning the National Institute of Health, the website http://www.usa.gov/shutdown.shtml states that

Research into life-threatening diseases and other areas will stop, and new patients won’t be accepted into clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health

I'm not sure how to interpret this, but it could mean that the research personnel is on unpaid leave.

  • Yeah, it is a good example. I suspect many recruitments also will be halted if it last so long. – user4511 Oct 2 '13 at 12:49
  • @VahidShirbisheh I'm not sure whether they will withdraw money that is already budgeted. But at least funding for new projects under government agencies will probably stop. – silvado Oct 2 '13 at 12:51
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    @silvado not probably. The NSF website says "No new grants or cooperative agreements will be awarded." – StrongBad Oct 2 '13 at 15:38
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    I am a fellow at NIH. This is correct, most people are on leave. Only so-called exempt (I am lucky to be one) personnel can continue work (and be paid). However, we are expected to maintain status quo, not do new things – Stylize Oct 2 '13 at 18:48
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    It's not just NIH. NIST resources have also been shuttered. – aeismail Oct 2 '13 at 20:08

In the US most academic institutions are not run directly by the Federal Government and so are not shut down. That is even public universities are run by the states, not the Federal Government, and so are not shut down. So the teaching side of academic life in the US is not really impacted unless the shutdown lasts long enough to interrupt student loan and grant payments.

Research is another issue and it depends on how exactly you are funded. If all of your federal grant money has been transferred to your university then it is there and you can use it. But you won't know when the next installment will come. If you work directly for a federal research unit then you have been shut down and sent home.

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    It has been increasingly hard to get grant money from agencies like the NSF. The sequester hurt a lot, and now this. It may get worse before it gets better. – Jonathan Landrum Oct 3 '13 at 15:16
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    @JonathanLandrum I was talking more about grant money that has been transferred to University controlled accounts not the process of getting the NSF to approve grants. Actually making accounts is very vulnerable to everything. The usually reliable accountants who move the money around are now furloughed so won't be making any transfers even for approved grants. – BSteinhurst Oct 3 '13 at 17:28

It appears that the shutdown may result in the cancellation of a whole year of research in Antarctica.

Update: The NSF just shut down all Antarctic research, though they have left open the possibility of restarting some of it if the shutdown ends very soon.

Update 2: Antarctic season is "open" but some projects will still be cancelled this year due to the delay.


Just as an example:

Today I tried to download this paper from NASA, but failed. It was only then when I realized the US Government has been shut down.


This affects people outside the US too: some databases maintained by US institutions, like NIST, have been effectively shut down. In the case relevant to my work, I don't have access to the NIST Chemistry Webbook and related databases, which is a royal pain in the buttocks.

  • Foreign students on internships at federally funded institutions have also been furloughed, and are now sitting around waiting for it to reopen. – Matthew G. Oct 6 '13 at 19:15

The Wonder database containing the surveillance data that the CDC collects has been shut down.

Epidemiologists worldwide use these data.

If anyone is searching for the data that was in the morbidity tables from the National Disease Surveillance Survey (NDSS), that data up to May 2013 is available on github.