U.S. Government shutdown 2013: How has it affected geomorphological research?

On the morning of the 1st October 2013, we woke up to news that the U.S. government were shutting down “non-essential” government departments. Without going into the details here, congress failed to reach a resolution of government budgets prior to the start of the 2014 fiscal year (starting 1st October 2013). This meant that around 800,000 federal employees were told to not come into work – indefinitely, until a resolution is reached.

Amongst the non-essential U.S. government departments are the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) – the department that manages LandSat aerial imagery and U.S. water gauges (amongst countless other resources). Also affected is the U.S. National Science Foundation  (NSF) which will have knock-on impacts for the reviewing and awarding of research grants – researchers that have recently applied for grants will have to expect long delays here. Moreover, if the government shutdown continues through to the end of the month, this year’s U.S. Antarctic research season will have to be cancelled through a lack of funding. UPDATE: The NSF have confirmed that this year’s U.S. Antarctic research season has now been cancelled due to the government shutdown


An all too familiar sight?

After discussions with geomorphologists here in the UK, it is evident that this has had a large impact on certain research projects – especially those with a strong remote sensing focus. A large proportion of people that have been most affected are postgraduate researchers – probably due to the tightly constrained nature of postgraduate research projects to enable completion within 3 years. However, what was also interesting was to hear from a number of students within the new cohort of research postgraduates that have also been held up by not allowing them to acquire data (e.g. aerial imagery or stream flow data). Although it is still early in their research projects, a number of these new postgraduate students are masters research students that already had a tight time-frame to complete their project within (1 year).

I am wondering, considering that prior to this shutdown digital data could be viewed as an on-demand and an always-on service for the digital age, did many people have contingency plans in place for this? To those that have been affected, have you been able to switch over to something else fairly easily? Can this be sustained for the next month if need be?

To those that are not reliant on USGS data, have you been affected in any other way by the U.S. government shutdown? Maybe the closure of U.S national parks has forced you to cancel fieldwork at the last minute? Or maybe a conference you were due to attend has been cancelled due to reasons pertaining to the government shutdown?

If your research has been affected by the US government shutdown, then please comment below – I think we are all interested into how this has affected research within our field and also the breadth of research projects that have been affected by this. 

Thanks for reading and please do contribute to discussions below – I will synthesise the discussions within a later blog post.


If you would like to discuss this further, but would rather not comment below then please email me (adam.trueman@durham.ac.uk). 



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s