From Joel Seligman, Rob Clark, and Mark Taubman
The President’s FY18 budget outline submitted to Congress last month contains cuts to federal research spending that could have a significant impact on the University of Rochester, our community, and U.S. global leadership in science and innovation.
Scientific innovation has always been fundamental to the University of Rochester. As one of the nation’s leading research institutions, one of our core missions is to help make the world ever better by advancing the frontiers of human knowledge for the betterment of society. The discoveries made by our scientists have improved lives here in Rochester and beyond. Pediatric and cancer vaccines developed at the University are saving millions of lives across the globe and the work of our scientists are helping shape Rochester’s emerging knowledge-based economy in fields such as the life sciences, optics, photonics, imaging, alternative energy, and advanced manufacturing.
Federal support for research is critical to the University’s scientific enterprise; over the last five years, we have received more than $1.7 billion in total research funding, 75% of which comes from the federal government. Federal support represents on average more than 60% of total national academic research and development spending annually.
The proposed cuts would severely impact our research programs and University operations, curtail our ability to recruit and retain research talent and train the next generation of scientists, and significantly diminish the University’s contribution to regional economic growth.
Furthermore, these cuts would further erode the nation’s global leadership in scientific innovation. Federal support for research has been stagnant for the last decade and while the U.S. reduces its commitment to science, other nations, including China, Japan, South Korea, India, and Singapore, are racing forward and investing heavily in research and development.
The proposed budget calls for cuts in the National Institutes of Health (-18%), the Department of Energy (-5.6%), and the Environmental Protection Agency (-31%). It also proposes cuts in NASA’s earth sciences research programs. Although the document does not address the National Science Foundation, there is concern that agency could be singled out for reductions as well. The proposed budget also includes cuts and the elimination of departments that fund the arts and humanities, education, and other important programs which will be addressed in a future communication.
The proposed FY18 cuts are in addition to the $18 billion in cuts the President has proposed for the current fiscal year that still remain unresolved. Among the suggested cuts, which would be absorbed over the last five months of FY17, are $350 million from the National Science Foundation and $1.2 billion from the National Institutes of Health.
University leadership and the Office of Government and Community Relations have been meeting and communicating with our Congressional delegation with regard to the proposed cuts and is working closely with organizations such as the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and other groups such as The Science Coalition (TSC), the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, and the broader research community to voice concerns and urge stable, sustained funding increases for federal research programs.
While these cuts are deeply troubling, it is important to note that the President’s annual budget proposal is exactly that – a proposal – and it faces procedural and political hurdles. Federal support for research enjoys bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, and it is our hope that many cuts in the proposed FY18 budget will not be enacted by Congress.
Once these initial budget proposals are further refined in the weeks and months ahead, there will be an opportunity for faculty and staff to voice their views to Congress. To ensure that we use your advocacy to its greatest impact, we will continue to update you on further developments and timing in future communications.