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Universities Say Sequestration Stymied Research Efforts


Dr. Peter McPherson, president of APLU, said Monday that the sequester will have a devastating impact on the nation’s ability to be competitive academically.Dr. Peter McPherson, president of APLU, said Monday that the sequester will have a devastating impact on the nation’s ability to be competitive academically.

WASHINGTON — The federal government sequestration has had a devastating impact on the nation’s public and private research universities, according to a new study released Monday at the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

“Sequestration is a blunt and reckless tool that has chipped away at the core role our institutions play in conducting critical research that leads to next-generation technological breakthroughs,” said Dr. Peter McPherson, president of APLU, a D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy organization. “Even in its earliest phase, sequestration is permeating every aspect of the work that our research universities do.”

APLU partnered with the Association of American Universities (AAU) and The Science Coalition in October to survey 171 research universities about the impact that the fiscal cutbacks have had on their research efforts. According to the findings, nearly 70 percent of the universities surveyed said that the sequester has hampered their ability to obtain new federal research grants and has caused them to delay already approved research projects. In addition, 58 percent of the respondents reported that sequestration has also had a negative impact on research-related personnel staff and students.

At a press conference held yesterday, Dr. Gene Block, chancellor of the University of California Los Angeles, says that his institution has received 22 less National Science Foundation awards than in years past because of the fiscal impasse. “Research universities are being hit first and the hardest,” he said.

At the University of Colorado, Boulder, research funding is down by 5.6 percent according to its chancellor, Dr. Philip DiStefano, who added that the long-term future of research labs—which in many cases have temporarily been subsidized with other university funds—will likely be in danger if Congress and the White House do not come to an agreement soon.

McPherson said that APLU has aggressively lobbied top congressional leaders and the Obama administration over the last few months in hopes that a resolution might be reached. “If Congress fails to reverse course and doesn’t begin to value investments in research and higher education, then the innovation deficit this country is facing will worsen as our foreign competitors continue to seize on this nation’s shortfall,” McPherson said.

Combined, the APLU and AAU represent nearly 300 colleges and universities in the nation.

“For seven decades, federally funded university research has produced innovations that have driven the economy, dramatically improved health, and enhanced national security,” said Dr. Hunter Rawlings, who is president of AAU. “This research has also made possible the training of generations of American scientists and engineers. But as we cut, and then cut some more, and as our competitors overseas increase their investments in research and education, we create an innovation deficit that threatens America’s global leadership. This foolish policy must end.”

Jamal Watson can be reached at [email protected]

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