On March 1, the University stands to lose nearly $40 million in federal research funding if Congress and the White House fail to defer the automatic cuts imposed by upcoming sequestration that sheds $2 trillion in spending over 10 years. The across-the-board cuts were planned in 2011 as an incentive to reach a deal and were delayed until 2012. As a result, research funding faces a $12-billion reduction as part of larger budget cuts. Emblematic of ever-shrinking research funding on both state and national levels, these cuts diminish the budget for a critical source of innovation. Cutting funding for research runs counter to goals set by the President and should be a government priority.
When compared against the $1.27 billion invested in research at the University this past year, $795 million of which was from the federal government, $40 million may seem insignificant. Much of the research that universities engage in is basic research — the basics from which innovation springs.
Federally funded scientific research has given us everything from better medical treatments to higher-yielding crops to global positioning satellites. Recognizing the importance of scientific research, President Obama declared in his State of the Union that, “Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.”
Research not only gives the economy a boost through better technology, but also advances the education of researchers, college students and the public at large. Stipulations of public disclosure and public engagement for funding coming from the government are rarely required by private investors.
Furthermore, the cultural impact of scientific research can be just as important as the economic side. Though Obama claimed that every dollar invested in the Human Genome Project returned $140 to the economy, he failed to account for the existential benefits that come with knowing what really makes up a person.
Since their inception, universities have been bastions of scientific research and federally funded science has sought to explore frontiers that were not addressed in the market for research and development. The two have benefited each other and, in doing so, have bettered the citizens of this country and the world. A commitment to continued scientific excellence is essential to a competitive nation.