Sites and Affiliations
Research and Applications
Major Accomplishments
Frequently Asked Questions
Knowledge and Technology Transfer
Education and Outreach
Media Resources
Technical Reports and Publications
Parallel Computing Research - Our Quarterly Newsletter
Contact Information
CRPC Home Page

UniGuide Featured Site

Government Shutdown Affects Sciences

Source: Rice News, Volume 5, Number 20, January 18, 1996 By Philip Montgomery
Rice News Staff

The budget battles in Washington, which may continue until the November elections, have created an air of uncertainty about the future of funding for science and engineering, according to Rice officials.

Both Michael Carroll, dean of the School of Engineering, and James Kinsey, dean of the School of Natural Science, agree that the budget process in Washington D.C. must be watched closely.

In a letter to area representatives, Carroll said he was concerned about the "serious threat that proposed Congressional actions pose to the engineering enterprise in our nation."

Carroll's concerns are shared by Kinsey.

"Given that there will be reductions in funding for basic science under even the most favorable scenario, it is clear that a smaller number of proposals will succeed," Kinsey said. "This is exacerbated by the shutdowns. People don't know how to plan for the future. The `normal' situation, when researchers had to undertake multiyear projects with usually only the next year's funding secure, was bad enough. Now everything is much more up in the air."

The government shutdowns, which are an outcome of the budget battles between the Republican Congress and the Democratic president, have not had a major impact on Rice, Carroll and Kinsey said.

The Office of Sponsored Research has reported that the shutdown has caused delays in continuation funding for several current research grants at Rice. Notifications of continuation of funding are expected to be processed once government staffers are back on the job. Sponsored Research expects longer delays for new awards.

However, both deans are quick to point out that how you define "major impact" depends upon your perspective. If you are a Rice researcher waiting for a grant check or, as in Kinsey's case, have a pending proposal for research scheduled to start soon, the effect of the shutdown is up close and personal. In the case of graduate students, the loss of funding can force talented young researchers out of academia.

"Clearly, research across the board will suffer more and more as the government limps along," said John Dennis, Noah Harding Professor of Computational and Applied Mathematics. "However, grad students and post-docs derive their small incomes from grants. They cannot wait long before they leave research to find a paycheck.

"In today's world, once they leave, they are highly unlikely to do any more research," he said. "A break in productivity generally dooms someone applying for a research position. Many senior researchers, like me, are already worried about the health of U.S. research because of the disheartening job market for young researchers-this (government shutdowns and budget woes) just makes it worse."

"The situation is beyond frustrating," said Neal Lane, director of the National Science Foundation, about the government shutdowns. "It is now endangering the nation's science research and education base, and many of the advances the nation has come to take for granted will be in peril if this budget impasse isn't resolved."

Resolving the budget impasse may not be the end of the peril to science and engineering, given the budget-cutting mood of Congress.

More and more of the research that allows the United States to stay ahead in the world involves groups of researchers and depends upon expensive high-performance computers, Dennis said. This type of research relies upon a continuity of funding.

Looming budget cuts bode ill for university research. The disruption of funds for research may amount to small potatoes compared to Medicare or Social Security funding issues, but the effect upon faculty and students could be devastating.

"For the first time, I am hearing some of our best faculty saying extremely pessimistic things about their future in research," Kinsey said. "The people I worry about the most in . all this are the young faculty just starting up their independent research careers and the graduate students."

Research in science and engineering lacks an adequate lobby and may prove an easy target for the budget-cutting Congress, Carroll said in his letter to local representatives. The result could be deep and damaging cuts to research, but he went on to point out why funding science and engineering research is so important.

"We all tend to take for granted the technological miracles that surround us," Carroll said. "The countless ways in which advances in communication, transportation, medical diagnosis and treatment, etc., have improved the quality of our lives. Miracles of human ingenuity and cooperation."

Sites & Affiliations | Leadership | Research & Applications | Major Accomplishments | FAQ | Search | Knowledge & Technology Transfer | Calendar of Events | Education & Outreach | Media Resources | Technical Reports & Publications | Parallel Computing Research Quarterly Newsletter | News Archives | Contact Information

Hipersoft | CRPC