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The Exchange Rate March 26, 2008

Posted by gordonwatts in physics life, science, USA.

ChartAs I write this the exchange rate is about $1.54 US to one euro. This will probably come out the middle of next week – no telling what it will be then.

When I moved over here on July 1 the dollar was $1.35 US (see Yahoo! Finance).

Even though France is helping out by paying me a per-diem over here, it is paid in constant dollars. Darn.

Our graduate students and post-docs over here are in the same boat. They are also paid in constant dollars. It is worse for them, of course, as they are paid less than I am and so have less of a cushion to fall back on (I don’t even want to talk about what has happened to my savings account during the stay over here!).

Indeed, we just had to raise the student’s battle pay in order to account for the exchange rate difference. Where does this money come from? Our grant, of course. To supplement the grant so that it can accommodate these increases we are asking for extra cash, of course, but everyone doing physics over in Europe is in the same boat and there just isn’t much extra money in the various funding agencies coffers after the last budget battle.

I don’t see the dollar coming down soon. I keep hoping it will plateau. This latest turn-around is, I think, only temporary. But it is definitely cutting into our ability to send people over to Europe, and we do science with people – less people, less science. It started with a small fraction of bad loans, which is slowly claiming more and more people – and now spreading out from the housing sector to the financial sector and… to the science sector. If there is such a sector!

BTW – when the insurance adjuster dropped by we talked a bit about the financial crisis in the US. He said it was a scandal: “Why haven’t you guys caught the people responsible?”



1. Homer Wolfe - March 27, 2008

I completely sympathize. I’m paid with a fixed contract partly in dollars, partly in euros. This cushioned the slide, but I’ve still taken a ~13% pay hit since the beginning of my stay. It does have a significant motivating effect for me to finish my thesis faster, but unless the US government commits to long-term funding to some domestic project, we will definitely see a decline in US experimental HEP.

It will be interesting to see how Fermilab’s remote monitoring can keep US students/researchers in the loop without the expense of paying them to live in europe. Nothing can compare to the experience of being at a running machine, of course.

2. gordonwatts - March 27, 2008

Good luck Homer — get that thesis done quickly! In the meantime perhaps you can convince your institution to give you a cost-of-living increase! 13% is a lot! Especially, when by working back in the USA you wouldn’t have lost nearly that much in real spending power.

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