While Georgetown may be able to overcome cuts to federal grant money for the National Institute of Health, other universities — including our neighbors at The George Washington University — may not be so lucky.

A bill signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 23, 2011 lowered the NIH’s salary cap for outside researchers by $20,000. Research universities, including our own, rely on such grants for professors to perform outside scientific inquiry; of the over $150 million of sponsored research funding Georgetown receives, 80 percent is from the federal government. These recent federal budget constraints put an unfair burden on academic institutions to pick up the slack and push them to assign administrative duties to research professors, wasting their time and talent.

Georgetown officials appear optimistic that the university will not be severely affected by the cuts. Though the NIH has yet to send out official directions to universities about the new cap, our graduate program expects a small number of its researchers to be affected. The biggest question for Georgetown and other institutions awaiting the news is whether or not the cap will apply to past NIHgrants or only those awarded this year.

But our neighbors at GWU will take a sizeable hit regardless of that clarification. Of the 110 scientists who work at The GWU Biostatistics Center, almost all are receiving a vast majority of their funds from the government.

Since 2004, research universities haven’t been able to afford to hire as many post-doctorates for research and have cut down on the number of professors they employ as a whole. Across the country, science professors who used to devote their time outside the classroom to research are increasingly being forced to take part in the bureaucratic, day-to-day affairs ordinarily handled by administrative employees in order to merit additional pay from the university to fund outside work.

The passage of this particular legislation will not, hopefully, hinder our campus’s development in the sciences. The doors to Regents Hall haven’t opened, but we hope that when they do, the building will be the birthplace of breakthrough research that will follow in the footsteps of the Georgetown University Medical Center’s past triumphs.

While studying at a historically liberal arts-focused university like Georgetown, it can be easy to forget the importance of scientific research. But the work done in the university’s labs attracts the best minds of their respective fields and produces important results. Though we have likely dodged this bullet, other research universities expect to be hit hard by it. Today’s shortchanging of scientific institutions does not bode well for future funding.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *