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Scientists urge moving to China or Germany over Trump budget: ‘Your future is brighter elsewhere’

Dr. Sherif Zaki works at a microscope at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, in Atlanta.
Dr. Sherif Zaki works at a microscope at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, in Atlanta. AP

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget released Thursday dealt harsh cuts to federal funding for scientific research, prompting American scientists across the country to condemn what they feared might cripple the nation’s scientific advancement.

But some scientists also responded with a sense of resignation: telling younger scientists and researchers to consider giving up on the United States and moving to China, Germany or other countries instead to pursue their careers.

“If Trump's science budget passes, my advice to bright young scientists is: leave the United States,” wrote Alex Wild, a curator of entomology at the University of Texas at Austin, adding that he would recommend Germany or China. “Your future is brighter elsewhere.”

Wild added in another tweet that he didn’t necessarily want those younger scientists to go — but that they should figure out what would be best for their careers.

Trump’s budget would slash about $5.8 million — or 20 percent — from funding for the National Institutes of Health, which researches diseases including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. The organization’s funding had been supported by prior presidents and even received an increase in President George W. Bush’s first budget proposal, according to Nature.

Under Trump’s proposal, several other agencies would also lose some funding: NASA would lose about $100 million from missions examining the planet’s climate, and the Environmental Protection Agency would have to cancel environmental cleanup programs. Related agencies, like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, could also lose funding that might be directed at scientific research.

On Twitter, other scientists and doctoral students chimed in with additional suggestions for countries to pursue their careers. One research scientist praised his own decision to move to Saudi Arabia, while another also supported turning to China — an economic and scientific rival — to find more hospitable funding. One nonprofit director in the United Kingdom even suggested American scientists could join them, to replace another exodus of scientists from Great Britain to the European Union after Brexit.

Scientific organizations also roundly criticized the cuts, Science Magazine reported, suggesting the decrease in funding could undermine America’s status at the forefront of scientific development.

“Cuts this deep threaten America's ability to remain a leader,” said Benjamin Corb, public affairs director of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in a statement. “It is of grave concern to the research community that President Trump's budget proposal – which would fund the agency at a 15-year low – values investments in defense above all other federal expenditures.”

Trump’s budget proposal did not mention the National Science Foundation, which funds nearly a quarter of all research supported by the federal government with a $7.5 million budget.

According to Forbes, almost 20 percent of American scientists already consider moving abroad to pursue research. Even before Trump’s administration released the budget, other countries had made overtures to American scientists. Emmanuel Macron, a French presidential candidate, urged Americans to consider coming to France in February, though he did not reference Trump by name.

“I want all those who today embody innovation and excellence in the United States to hear what we say: from now on, from next May, you will have a new homeland – France,” he said at the time, according to the Guardian.

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