SequestrationSequestration will have a devastating impact on U.S. research enterprise

Published 20 November 2012

Three organizations representing more than 200 of the U.S. leading academic research institutions yesterday launched a Web site that aims to inform policymakers and the public of the impact that the upcoming budget sequester would have on federal funding for university research; the Web site highlights the importance of federally funded university research to innovation, economy, an society

Three organizations representing U.S. research universities yesterday launched a Web site that aims to inform policymakers and the public of the impact that the upcoming budget sequester would have on federal funding for university research. The three organizations — the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and The Science Coalition (TSC) – urge Congressional leaders and the president to act quickly to develop a comprehensive, balanced solution to the U.S. fiscal crisis, a solution which avoids steep cuts to scientific research, which, the three organizations say, pays a substantial return on investment in the form of job creation, workforce development, and economic growth.

Collectively, the three sponsoring organizations represent more than 200 of the U.S. leading academic research institutions. Their Web site, ScienceWorksForUS, provides data on the impact that sequestration — the across-the-board spending cut scheduled to take effect on 2 January 2013 — is likely to have next year on academic research in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. While the estimated reduction in research funding ranges from the hundreds of millions of dollars for large, research-intensive states to less than $10 million for smaller states, every state will experience a significant impact given the catalytic effect research universities have on local and state economies. The Web site also provides numerous examples of the role that federally funded university research plays in today’s economy and the impact it has on society at large.

“Federal funding for research represents only 2 percent of the total federal budget, but it pays enormous dividends,” said Philip DiStefano, chancellor of the University of Colorado Boulder, which is a member of AAU, APLU, and TSC. “The numbers might not look huge, but the potential negative impact of reduced research on the economy would have long-lasting effects. That is because basic scientific research produces the discoveries that lead to countless treatments and cures that improve health, provide for our energy needs, fuel the new technologies that spark businesses and economic growth, improve our security, and help us better understand the world around us. ”

Federal funding for research is currently at the lowest level in the past decade in real dollars.

The caps on discretionary spending mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 will likely further depress research funding over the next decade. And sequestration requires additional cuts in federal spending on research and development — beyond those that will result from the BCA spending caps — of more than $12 billion in 2013 and nearly $95 billion over the life of the sequester.

“It is essential that America get itself on a sustainable financial path that reduces deficits and makes room for needed investments in the country’s future,” said Sally Mason, president of the University of Iowa and another AAU, APLU, TSC member. “We urge Congress and the President to work together now to enact a long-term plan to reduce budget deficits, prevent the arbitrary and harmful cuts of sequestration, and provide for continued investments in scientific research that will help build a better America.”

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