At last week’s hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee there was considerable discussion about the impact of mandatory budget reductions (sequestration) on research supported by the federal government. Senators and witnesses also spoke of the important role federally-sponsored university research plays in the creation of new companies. A survey released earlier this week and an October 30 report provide insight on both matters.
Impacts of Sequestration on Research at Private and Public Universities:
A survey of research universities revealed a wide range of negative impacts resulting from sequestration. A summary of these findings was released on November 11.
This survey of 171 public and private universities was sponsored by the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Science Coalition. Forty-three percent (74) of the universities responded; the margin of error was +/- 10 percent.
“In the first seven months of sequestration, 70 percent of responding universities cited delays in research projects and 70 percent experienced reductions in the number of new research grants,” the survey summary states. In other findings, reductions of up to 31 percent were made in research-related staffing positions. Responding universities experienced reductions, delays, or cancellations in undergraduate student research, equipment/instrumentation, conferences, research and training grants, admitted graduate students, projects, and field or experimental work.
The summary concludes:
“The results from the sequestration survey are an early indicator of the devastating impact that sustained cuts to research and higher education will have on the economy and the United States’ role as a global innovation leader. Research university leaders from both public and private universities express deep concerns about both the short-term impacts on current research and the long-term effects on future research and the scientific enterprise.
“University leaders noted that although sequestration was clearly harmful during its first year, it was not as damaging as it could have been. Some universities and federal science agencies were able to ameliorate the impacts via short-term tactics such as exhausting reserve funds, temporarily realigning activities, and provisionally reassigning staff, faculty and students. However, these devices will not be available to cushion the impact of sequestration in 2014 and beyond.”
Under the provisions of the Budget Control Act, mandatory budget reductions (sequestration) will continue through FY 2021.
Role of Federally-Funded University Research in New Companies:
The important role that federally-funded research plays in the development of high technology companies is often discussed by Washington policymakers. A report published by The Science Coalition provides examples of how federally-funded university research was instrumental in the establishment of 100 new companies.
The Science Coalition describes itself as “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of more than 50 of the nation’s leading public and private research universities.” The report explains “These companies were self-selected by the member universities of The Science Coalition and are illustrative of the many companies that are the result of federally funded university based research.”
For each of the 100 companies in “Sparking Economic Growth 2.0” the location, founding date, university at which the research was performed, number of company employees, public or private status, and technology is listed. The report also provides the name of the funding agency and the amount of federal funding.
Funding agencies include the Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, NASA, National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation. Fifty universities were involved. The companies employ more than 7,200 people in 26 states, with the number of employees ranging from 2 to 1,169. An estimated $330 million in federal funding for university research was provided in amounts ranging from $40,000 to $35 million.
The Science Coalition has related information on its Success Stories website.