Federal Funding for Georgetown Research Declines

Georgetown University and Georgetown University Medical Center saw a slight decline in federal funding for the fiscal year 2016 from fiscal year 2015.

The Medical Center received $76.68 million in federal funding, a decrease from 2015. Researchers on the main campus received less money as well.

Together, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, government programs that provide much of the funding for science programs, gave out nearly $40 billion in total grants and funding to institutions during fiscal year 2016, a $2 billion dollar increase over fiscal year 2015.

Mann said faculty on the main campus were able to retain much of the funding they had received despite the slight decrease in federal money.

“We’re holding strong,” Mann said. “But, people are a little nervous, because it’s been going down in real dollars and some people are just hoping that the government will continue to support the sciences.”

Mann noted that main campus science programs and the GUMC, which receives the bulk of the federal research funds that the university receives, have had to diversify their funding sources by applying for grants from multiple federal agencies this year.

“Our faculty in the sciences on the main campus have diversified a bit because there’s not just NSF and NIH, there’s other agencies, there’s Department of Energy and Department of Defense,” Mann said. “They can have fairly deeper pockets than some of the other agencies.”

Robert Clarke, the dean for research at the Medical Center, said that most of the funding for the Medical Center came from the NIH. However, he said that the amount received, despite being a slight decrease from fiscal year 2015, was still greater than in fiscal year 2014.

“That is down from the previous year, but up from the one before that, reflecting the uncertainty of funding sources,” Clarke wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Clarke said that due to the funding decrease, the role of private funding for research has increased. In order to have a better chance for bigger grants in the future, researchers often request and receive smaller grants from private individuals or companies to bolster their research.

“We have a number of community philanthropists called ‘Partners in Research’ who provide seed funding for the exploration of early scientific ideas,” Clarke wrote. “These are critical dollars for researchers to generate data that then helps to apply for larger grants.”

Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming said that part of the difficulty in getting grants is that Georgetown’s funding comes from a pool of money that is appropriated by Congress to a number of federal agencies.

“One of the big challenges, though, is that the funding for the departments of labor, education, health and human services, which includes the NIH, all come from the same appropriations bill,” Fleming said. “Hence, they compete against one another.”

Fleming also noted that there has not yet been a fiscal year 2017 budget passed. Instead, Congress passed a continuing resolution to keep fiscal year 2016’s budget until late April, when they will potentially pass a new budget.

According to Fleming, there is new uncertainty involved for future spending on research, despite bipartisan concerns. With potential tax cuts and new proposed spending, Georgetown’s federal funding may suffer.

“We just don’t know how it’s going to play out,” Fleming said. “You can imagine if those who want to balance the budget prevail, they’ll raise defense spending, build the wall and cut taxes — there will be dramatic cuts in other areas of spending.”

Clarke said that past cuts to research funding have caused the GUMC to diversify its funding resources, but uncertainty still remains due to continuing dependency on the NIH. He warned against cutting spending for grants, especially for the sciences.

“We have serious issues right now with an aging Baby Boomer population that will experience the Silver Tsunami of disorders including Alzheimer’s and cancer,” Clarke wrote. “We can’t afford to go backwards.”

Correction: This article previously stated the main campus science programs receive the bulk of federal research funds; GUMC receives the bulk of federal research funds. This article also previously stated there is only a 4 percent chance of NIH applicants receiving federal funding; this is not true.

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