University research programs could be hurt by the huge federal budget cuts known as sequestration, according to the Huffington Post. U.S. research universities worry that the spending cuts will lead to more layoffs and will prevent faculty from hiring young researchers, leading to “a generation with less access to careers in science.”
School officials say these cuts could hurt ongoing projects and scientific breakthroughs, as well as prevent graduates from entering research programs and projects. "There [are] going to be a lot of research jobs at risk. That will hit young researchers disproportionately hard," said Steve Forrest, Vice President of Research at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
“I’m not sure in the current climate we have for research funding that I would have received funding to be able to do the work that led to the Nobel Prize,” adds Carol Greider, a molecular biologist whose research is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Greider used to have at least eight young researchers aiding her with work at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. This number has gone down to four due to budget cuts in the past few years, and Greider recently could not afford to hire a “promising young researcher” for the next year, according to the Huffington Post.
For many students, research is an essential part of college. “A lot of students need to do research to further themselves academically and prepare themselves for grad school or work, and it’s frustrating to see a lack of funding in these areas that are becoming so vital to a university education,” said Devon Broglie, a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh studying computer science.
“A lot of the draws for many universities are their research programs. Pitt is a top research school and that’s why a lot of people choose to go there,” Broglie said, adding that she herself has applied for some research programs and will be trying to do research at some point in her junior and senior year.
Dani Stoffregen offers another concerned viewpoint. A sophomore at Ithaca College majoring in documentary studies, Stoffregen notes that this news doesn’t bode well for “non-science” students either. “I feel like science and math-related research programs usually get the most funding. So if those programs are getting less federal dollars, then who knows how much this budget cut could hurt research and career-related programs in the arts and humanities,” she said.
According to a survey by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, about three fifths of 2011 university research funding came from the federal government. The “across-the-board” cuts are to take effect by September 30th, and the Huffington Post reports that NIH financial allocations for 2012 were below those of 2003. Because of sequestration, NIH plans to reduce its budget by another five percent.
“You need to put in a lot of hours at the lab or with professors on top of your classes, and you don’t have time to work a part-time job and help pay for school and other expenses,” said Broglie, emphasizing yet another downside to the budget cuts. “So when more and more research positions are becoming unpaid or getting cut altogether, it makes me more worried for the future.”
Photos from edudemic.com and genengnews.com