University President Mary Sue Coleman urged Congress yesterday to strengthen funding for scientific research and warned that funding cuts would hurt the nation’s economy.

In an address to members of the U.S. Senate Democratic Steering Committee in Washington, D.C., Coleman argued that increased science funding translates to innovation and the creation of new jobs.

“Michigan is being forced to reinvent its economy and research and innovation are at the core of these efforts,” she said.

Coleman was one of a handful of representatives from The Science Coalition, an organization comprised of more than 50 major research institutions – including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University – to address Congress. Michigan State University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan, the three members of the state’s University Research Corridor, are all members of The Science Coalition.

During her speech, Coleman highlighted the research corridor’s efforts to develop cancer-fighting technologies and alternative energy sources.

“It is efforts like these, at Michigan and at universities and research facilities around the country, that will unleash the people and ideas of the next 50 years that will create new technologies, new industries and new jobs,” she said.

Federal funding makes up about 70 percent of the University’s total research funding.

Though the University’s research budget for the 2007 fiscal year increased about 3.3 percent to $823 million, Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest attributed the University’s funding gains to investment from the private sector. Federal funding grew by just 1.8 percent during the 2007 fiscal year after a 2.4 percent boost during the 2006 fiscal year. In the 2005 fiscal year, federal funding grew by 6.5 percent.

As a result of the leveling off of funding increases in recent years, the University has looked more and more toward private and commercial donors for support to supplement declining federal support.

Federal funding for science has declined over the past five years, and President Bush’s proposed budget for 2009 would continue that trend.

Bush’s budget would continue a six-year trend of inflation outpacing biomedical research funding by not granting a funding increase to the National Institutes of Health.

The National Institute of Health is the single largest source of federal funding for the University, contributing nearly half its total research budget. In the 2007 fiscal year, the University received about $387.7 million from the NIH, about 47 percent of the University’s total research budget.

While the biomedical sciences have taken a hit in Bush’s proposed budget, physical science funding would be increased significantly. The budget would provide an increase of about 19 percent for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and about 14 percent for the National Science Foundation.

The Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation represent smaller portions of the University’s funding than the NIH. In the 2007 fiscal year, funding from the National Science Foundation made up about 8 percent of the University’s total research budget and funding from the Department of Energy made up about 2 percent.

President Bush’s proposed budget would bring funding for science research to about $29.3 billion, representing an overall increase of 3 percent. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that about 60 percent of that money goes to universities.

Mike Waring, executive director for federal relations at the University, said schools need funding increases that exceed the rate of inflation.

“The last two years here in Congress haven’t been kind to science accounts,” Waring said. “Universities need sustainable growth in all of the science accounts.”

Waring called increased funding, “an investment in America’s future.”

Michigan senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, both Democrats, listened as Coleman made her case to the Democratic Steering Committee.

Kathleen Long, a Levin staffer, said in an e-mail message that, “Senator Levin believes that a robust federal (research and development) program and commitment to science is critical to U.S. competitiveness.”

Levin’s sentiments echoed Coleman’s request that legislators increase federal funding for university-based research.

“The support of Congress and the president is more important than ever in today’s global economy,” Coleman said. “This is an investment in America’s future that we cannot afford not to make.”

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