Federal spending cuts are expected to affect scientific research at the University of Arizona, but the impact so far has been difficult to gauge, says the director of the UA :Lunar and Planetary Observatory.

Timothy Swindle says he attended what should have been the nation's largest planetary sciences conference of the year last week in Houston to find that many presenters were unable to attend because of budget cuts.

"That meant that some talks about, oh, minor things like (Mars Rover) Curiosity, the person who actually developed the talk wasn't there to give it because they were sequestered," Swindle said.

With 90 percent of his budget coming from federal funding, particularly from NASA, Swindle said the effects of sequestration have not been too bad, "so far. Big projects like OSIRIS-REx, they are not taking sequestration out of that. Although they are taking sequestration out of individual scientists grants" by delaying the start of new grants.

Another problem, Swindle said, is uncertainty. At this point, it is difficult to determine what will be cut, and how deep.

Programs such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey and NASAare expected to face cuts, and those will ripple down to research institutions and individual researchers, Swindle said.