Colleges prepare for research funding cuts
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio universities expecting decreased research funding in the wake of the automatic federal budget cuts that took place this month are trying to prepare for those cuts and find alternatives to replace the money.
The automatic cuts took effect March 1 after the White House and Congress failed to agree on a better plan to reduce spending.
Thousands of scientists at universities across Ohio face the threat to their research funding, and that has prompted university officials to search for new investors, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
"I believe there is an increasing need for industry to collaborate with universities," said Bill Ball, vice president for research at the University of Cincinnati. "We're very heavily leveraged in federal funding."
Jean-Eudes Dazard, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University, learned in December that the National Institutes of Health would fund his work to help genetically tailor treatments to cancer patients. But he then found out that the federal budget cuts had eliminated $170,000 from the four-year, $1 million grant, and an additional 25 percent from the first year of funding.
"I had hoped to hire a graduate student and a research associate for part of the work," Dazard said. "Now I will be only able to support myself."
The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation which provide much of the research funding around the country sent more than $800 million to Ohio universities and research institutes last fiscal year, and the federal stimulus program pumped millions of dollars into Ohio schools for health and biomedical research in 2009.
But the federal stimulus dollars that have been spent haven't been replaced.
University of Cincinnati research funding dropped from $443 million in 2010 to $404 million last year as a result, and the automatic federal spending cuts could eliminate an additional $17 million over the next few years, Ball said.
Ohio State reported $934 million in research spending in 2012, a $102 million increase over 2011. But that included $169 million in federal grants and university cost-sharing to help build a radiation oncology center at the Wexner Medical Center. Excluding those funds, Ohio State's 2012 research funding decreased by $67 million.
Janet Weisenberger, Ohio State University's senior associate vice president for research, said funding "might go down by as much as $40 million over the next couple of years."
The National Science Foundation warned universities last month that it might eliminate 1,000 grants for new research studies from the 10,000 to 11,000 grants it awards each year.
The agency, which awards more than $6 billion in grants annually, hasn't made a final decision on funding cuts, spokeswoman Deborah Wing said.
The National Institutes of Health, with 83 percent of its $30 million annual budget spent on research, haven't determined how that agency will reduce spending either.
"Right now, we're in the planning stages," agency spokeswoman Renate Myles said.
Those uncertainties also make it difficult for schools to plan, said Suzanne Rivera, associate vice president for research at Case Western
"It would just be a tremendous shame if we would have to interrupt or slow down projects that are making essential contributions to society," Rivera said.