The partial government shutdown — which ended temporarily on Sunday as lawmakers work to create an agreeable budget — directly impacted the ability of researchers at the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research to publish their findings.
Professor and ecologist at the University of Michigan's School for Environment and Sustainability, Bradley Cardinale serves as director of the CIGLR, a research organization sponsored by the University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Cardinale says his organization works with NOAA and represents about 50 percent of NOAA’s research and management operations in the Great Lakes. While his organization was able to continue its research despite the shutdown, the data CIGLR collected during the shutdown could not be uploaded to NOAA’s online models, which are used by the public, until the shutdown ended.
“The impact of the government shutdown was sort of good news, bad news with respect to our particular organization,” Cardinale said. “The bad news is all of the NOAA models, all of the NOAA projects, everything that’s led by or hosted by NOAA was down. The good news is … we were able to maintain a lot of the data collection that is important to NOAA, so that once their models come back online, we can begin to repopulate that with data.”
Cardinale highlighted the impacts of not being able to make his organization’s data available through NOAA’s models. As an example, he said the CIGLR works with NOAA to create and publicize ice forecasts on the Great Lakes, which are used by and can affect the schedules of people in the shipping industry.
When the government is shut down, Cardinale said, these forecasts are not readily available for those who rely on them as part of their work. Even though the data is still being collected by CIGLR, the shutdown leaves Cardinale’s organization without access to the NOAA models to update them.
“It highlights the importance of cooperation between public organizations like universities and government agencies,” Cardinale said. “It allows for some redundancies to occur, so if the government agencies go down, public institutions like our University can continue collecting data. Now, those models are still hosted on the NOAA servers, so if NOAA goes down they’re not available to anyone, but the good news is we can still be collecting data to update them when they come back online.”
LSA sophomore Alyssa Cutter does research on breast cancer and cancer cells in the University’s Department of Radiology. She said her research is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, which has still been funded throughout the shutdown.
For her research, however, the shutdown has affected grant funding and reviews. She said the government shutdown hasn’t altered her research in its current state but the shutdown's impact will be felt further down the road.
“Day-to-day operations haven’t been affected but what has been affected are the grants that are supposed to go through in the next grant application cycle,” Cutter said. “It doesn’t affect us right now, but it affects us six months from now when we’re trying to plan experiments then.”
Cutter said if the grants are not reviewed on schedule — which in her case would be this summer — it will be pushed back until fall. This ultimately moves the timeline of her research back.
For Cutter, the unpredictability of the government and the future of her research is discouraging.
“I understand that the shutdown is going to affect a state-funded institution and something that’s funded by the government,” Cutter said. “It’s frustrating when it’s something you can’t control and will end up affecting your work and something that you put effort into, and it’s something you have absolutely no control over the outcome of what’s going to happen with the funding of your project.”
LSA sophomore Sasha Tretyakova echoed Cutter’s sentiments. While her work at the Museum of Natural History and the Veterans Affairs hospital wasn’t directly impacted by the shutdown, she said it is unfair the shutdown would impact research.
Tretyakova also emphasized Cutter’s concerns about the possibility of grant submissions and reviews being delayed. She said she finds it preposterous that research and funding could be impacted over a wall.
“I’m really glad my stuff wasn’t affected, but for people’s labs who were, that’s horrible,” Tretyakova said. “I know how much even a week of not staying on task with your research or project, how much that small amount of time can set you back and affect everything.”
With the government temporarily reopened, Cardinale said the CIGLR is meeting with NOAA this week to create an action plan, which could not have been created before the shutdown because there was little warning given. He said the two organizations will decide on the best way to move forward and get everything up to date as quickly as possible.
However, Cardinale knows it will take months of work to try to get back to where the organization was before. He said to give the CIGLR four to six months for everything to be up to date.
“There was very little warning that this was gonna happen,” Cardinale said. “There wasn’t enough time to organize ourselves and try to protect as much data and as much of the modeling as possible.”
Cardinale said the CIGLR offers many services, including weather and forecasts, invasive species forecasts, water quality and algal bloom monitoring among others. He said many people — from professional and recreational fishers to the shipping industry to typical beachgoers — use the Great Lakes-area services offered by CIGLR and NOAA.
He said the partial government shutdown created obstacles for obtaining funding and getting CIGLR’s services ready for summer, but he doesn’t see this as a partisan issue.
“We’re an apolitical organization, and I honestly don’t care whether Democrats, Republicans or Independents are leading the country,” Cardinale said. “Everybody who lives around the Great Lakes needs clean water to drink, everybody needs clean beaches where they do not get sick and everybody needs a weather forecast, ice forecast, things that affect their daily lives so that they can prepare for major events that could be anything from benign to catastrophe. It really doesn’t matter to us who is in office, what matters is that the government provides all of these important services for people around the Great Lakes that people use every day.”