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SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule and walkway rests atop a Falcon 9 rocket in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Jan. 3, 2018. Credit: SpaceX.

The partial government shutdown, now in its third week, is taking an increasingly heavy toll on some of the nation's premier science agencies and those that depend on them for their work, funding and in some cases, safety.

Why it matters: The U.S. faces increasing pressure from abroad, particularly from China, to maintain its leadership edge in innovation. The shutdown is hitting numerous science-focused agencies, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Standards and Technology, NOAA, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Between the lines: This week, there are two annual scientific conferences taking place in the U.S. that typically draw top federal science experts: The American Meteorological Society's annual meeting, and the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

The impact on the weather conference in particular is notable: Out of about 4,000 participants, 700 federal experts were forced to cancel their trips at the last minute due to lack of funding, resulting in about 800 canceled presentations.

  • The shutdown "delays a lot of innovative technologies" and "impedes research progress," AMS Executive Director Keith L. Seitter told Axios, pointing to the many collaborations that arise from the meeting.
  • Weather forecasts for the U.S. are less accurate because of the shutdown. At NOAA's Environmental Modeling Center, the hub of weather modeling within the sprawling agency, model upgrades scheduled for February are delayed, and models aren't being fixed in the meantime.
  • The U.S. is widely viewed as having fallen behind other nations, particularly the E.U., when it comes to the accuracy of its main forecast model, known as the GFS.
  • The GFS' accuracy has been running particularly poorly during the shutdown, and no one is on duty to fix whatever is going wrong.

National Weather Service forecasters are working without pay, but training and maintenance at the agency is on hold except for emergencies.

  • This includes courses that require in-depth training in order to fix equipment and for operational forecasting, a NOAA employee told Axios.
  • In addition, outreach from the National Hurricane Center to emergency managers — a crucial link when storms strike — is on hold.

Unknown 2018 temperature ranking: As part of the shutdown, NOAA pulled down its vast climate science databases, affecting scientists beyond the agency. At NOAA and NASA, data processing still needs to take place in order to determine where 2018 fits in the list of warmest years on record, a key indicator of long-term climate change.

Commercial crew delays: This is a critical year for NASA's goal to resume launching astronauts to space from U.S. soil, which hasn't happened since the Space Shuttle era ended in 2011. The agency is banking on private sector contracts with Boeing and SpaceX to accomplish this, but those companies first need to pass rigorous safety tests that were scheduled to begin on Jan. 17, in the case of SpaceX.

  • However, with NASA contractors furloughed, SpaceX's first uncrewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule has been pushed back, as indicated in a recent tweet from CEO Elon Musk.

No grants may mean no students: The NSF has indefinitely suspended reviews of grant proposals, and may delay decisions in awarding funding for postdoctoral fellowships. If that happens, uncertainty will extent to university science departments that offer slots based on funding.

Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, said via Twitter that the shutdown could eliminate spaces for graduate students in 2019.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Private sector wins: The AMS' Seitter said the shutdown ultimately makes federal service less appealing to students who would otherwise look to government agencies as their most rewarding career opportunity.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Prosecutor: Fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. was "justified"

Khalil Ferebee (C), the son of Andrew Brown Jr., and attorneys Bakari Sellers (L) and Harry Daniel (R) at a May 11 news conference in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

A North Carolina prosecutor said Tuesday that the death of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man fatally shot by sheriff's deputies last month, was "tragic" but "justified," due to the immediate threat officers believed Brown posed.

Why it matters: The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into Brown's death. Police in Elizabeth City shot him five times, including in the back of his head, according to an independent autopsy report released by family attorneys last month.

McCarthy comes out against bipartisan deal on Jan. 6 commission

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will oppose a bipartisan deal announced last week that would form a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, his office announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: McCarthy's opposition to the deal, which was negotiated by the top Republican and Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, underscores the internal divisions that continue to plague the GOP in the wake of Jan. 6.

3 hours ago - World

Beijing's antitrust push poses a problem for Western regulators

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Chinese government's anti-monopoly machinery presents a major challenge to U.S. and European regulators, a new book argues.

Why it matters: China's huge markets are attracting investment from multinational corporations and shaping the behavior of its own globe-trotting companies — giving international heft to the country's idiosyncratic antitrust enforcement and putting it on a collision course with Western-style regulation.