Fear, Rumors, & Sequestration

HELPTL;DR: If you want to help people (including perhaps us) who are losing jobs due to NASA EPO funding issues related to sequestration, please donate (tax deductible where US law allows) via SIUE’s Paypal account for this project.

I’m trying really hard not to panic, and to not panic my staff, but if you’re a space buff, you’ve probably already seen the numerous websites showing the leaked NASA internal memo that reads,

“Effective immediately, all education and public outreach activities should be suspended, pending further review. In terms of scope, this includes all public engagement and outreach events, programs, activities, and products developed and implemented by Headquarters, Mission Directorates, and Centers across the Agency, including all education and public outreach efforts conducted by programs and projects.” leaked memo posted on Space Ref and other sites

And if you know how CosmoQuest is funded, you may be wondering what this means to this site.

Bottom line: we don’t know, but the writing is on the wall for EPO funding in general.

How this leaked memo is to be interpreted is still being decided (or isn’t leaked – not sure), and some of my contacts have received messages noting:

  • It does not say if money already distributed is being called back
  • It does not say if existing EPO grants/CANs are safe or cancelled
  • It does not say if existing mission EPO plans are to be stopped
  • It does not say if EPO grants in general (and the upcoming ROSES EPOESS call) are off

Basically, we know very little, but it is clear many programs will be stopped. A lot of really good people who spend their days communicating NASA science and creating NASA related educational materials are about to be out of work. You can help by donating via the SIUE donation page for this project.

This could, worst case, include loss of all or partial funding for the core staff of CosmoQuest: Pamela Gay (50%), Cory Lehan (100%), Nicole Gugliucci (100%), Joe Moore (tuition waiver and graduate stipend), Georgia Bracey (partial), Kathy Costello (partial), Ellen Reilly (partial). I have enough donations at the moment to pay 1-2 months salary if the worst case becomes reality. All staff working on media projects (365 Days of Astronomy) and on the forums are funded through Astrosphere New Media, and are safe.

I’m going to ask all of you to please donate to CosmoQuest’s citizen science program budget. If the worst case comes to reality, your donations will allow us to keep helping scientists do science by keeping these people employed. Stuart Robbins and Irene Antonenko are currently leading their team through the analysis needed for 5+ different papers on the Moon, and they’ll replicate their work with Mercury. Jennifer Scully is working with her team on sorting where to start with the Vesta results. We’ve verified the data you are submitting is good. Now… we just want to keep going and keep doing science.

In the best case, in which our funding is safe, and our ability to keep seeking new funding is safe, I will use your funding to try and contract people who lose their jobs due to sequestration, and whose work I know is excellent, to use their skills to do amazing things as my university allows. (E.g. I can’t create positions, but I should be able to contract people to do specific tasks, like conduct 100 interviews for our education research, or create specific content for Mercury Mappers that we don’t have).

I want to keep my team together, keep this site growing, and keep our understanding of our field increasing.

Will you please help? And will you please talk to your employer about trying to help more. Together, we can keep science growing, and help people continue to pay rent and buy food.

I don’t know the fate of my team, but there will be people who lose their jobs in the coming days. Please help me help.

I will post a running sum of donations in the side bar of this page as I get updates (typically, every business day). I will also write new posts as I learn more.

5 Responses to Fear, Rumors, & Sequestration

  1. John Jaksich March 23, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    After seeing your plight on twitter–I was reminded of an e-mail which I received from the APS in regards to the sequestration. In the e-mail, there was a link to Senate contacts and the possibility of using the letter campaign. I am posting those links in the hopes that an old-fashioned letter writing campaign may be of use, as well.

    APS web site URL: http://apps3.aps.org/email/OPA/urgent.html

    Senate Contacts web site URL:


    House of Representatives web site URL:


    post script:

    It is hard to fathom that citizens of the U.S. would not be supportive of NASA, Public Outreach, and science–in general given the economic impact that science has on our economy?

    • John Jaksich March 24, 2013 at 4:20 am #

      Dear Starstryder,

      I truly feel sorry for the predicament you (and all) face in light of sequestration. Please–you don’t have to put my previous comment on your site or even note it. I have written my Senators, signed a petition at whitehouse.gov, blogged about it, noted it at S.A.G.A.Net.org. I am truly sorry if you feel as if I should not be associated with your enterprise.

      I am truly very sorry if I have offended you and your staff in anyway.

      Please remove my previous comment–

      Regards to all—

      John Jaksich

      • Nicole Gugliucci March 26, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

        No problem with the comment! Ones with multiple links automatically go to a buffer for approval. It has been approved. We were a bit busy over the weekend and hadn’t gotten to adminning properly. So sorry for the delay! – Nicole

  2. Rafael March 24, 2013 at 1:36 am #

    I think that programs like Cosmoquest which include citizen volunteers for science, are a way to save money, because they get results valid for science using thousands of computers that were not purchased, using thousands of hours men without paying them and much energy consumed that did not pay.
    I vote for keep these citizen science programs running.

  3. David March 26, 2013 at 5:53 am #

    Pamela – Any rough number of what the annual costs are for the people and stuff you listed above?

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