Research Advocacy Group Urges Congress to Fund University Research

The Task Force on American Innovation, a research advocacy group representing a multitude of business and education interests, is asking Congress to pay attention to the importance of science and research spending — especially in light of the current federal government shutdown. According to the group, a lack of attention to research spending could result in a long-term economic drag on the country.

In a letter to Congress and White House, the task force warns that the nation's "innovation deficit" will continue to grow if funding for university research and science education is not considered in negotiations over the government shutdown, sequester and debt limit, according to Tyler Kingkade of The Huffington Post.

Intel, Microsoft, Google and Dow Chemical are the corporate members of the task force.

"We understand the broader fiscal pressures our nation faces and applaud your focus on this fundamental challenge … However, undermining the nation's support for research and STEM education will not help resolve this problem; instead it will exacerbate it, slowing down the engine that drives the innovation and economic growth that are necessary to long-term deficit and debt reduction," The Task Force on American Innovation wrote.

The Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the presidents and chancellors of their member universities are leading an effort to close the "innovation deficit."

As a result of the federal shutdown, some research projects were stopped and the approval and processing of future research grant requests have been delayed. Through grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, the federal government frequently sponsors research at universities. Both agencies are facing major furloughs.

"The many companies, universities, and scientific societies that this Task Force represents share their view that our role as the world's innovation leader is in serious jeopardy due to inadequate federal support for research and STEM education," the group wrote. "We believe that America must maintain a commitment to its competitiveness and future innovation capabilities. This commitment is vital to short- and long-term economic growth, especially in the competitive global economy."

The letter follows a previous note criticizing cuts to higher education research that was signed by more than 165 university presidents and chancellors, including public, private and Ivy League institutions.

The Task Force was formed in 2004 to advocate for stronger federal support of research. The group, along with higher education organizations, has been responding to the devastating cuts to federally funded research imposed by sequestration. The cuts were just some of the across-the-board spending reductions mandated as a result of Congress' failure to compromise on a budget.

In a statement, the American Council on Education, a higher education group based in Washington, D.C., also asked colleges to play a part in spurring public debate over the "ongoing political paralysis."

"We call on higher education institutions around the country to engage in conversations, lectures, and events, both on and off campus, that bring together students, business and community leaders, and the public," Molly Corbett Broad, ACE's president, wrote. "We should focus attention on the processes that ensure responsible government and sound budget policy."

10 16, 2013
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