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Cutting Back in Academia

The National Academy of Sciences will propose a plan for cutting back costs at state universities.

By | August 23, 2011

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CLAWED

Upon the request of Congress, a US National Academy of Sciences panel is drafting a plan to help state universities deal with continuing budget cuts. Scheduled for final release by the end of the year, the plan is expected to call for significant “belt-tightening,” Nature reports, and is not likely to spare researchers and laboratories. One suggestion might be for researchers to share equipment and facilities, for example, between labs and even nearby universities, panel members told Nature. Another might address the regulations for research grant applications, such as nixing the “effort-reporting” rules, which require researchers to detail time spent on different projects, and/or asking that funding agencies cover all indirect, or overhead, costs of research like administration fees and building maintenance.

These changes are not without consequences, however. Drawing on funding agencies to cover overhead costs, for example, could squeeze the research budget even tighter than it already is. But the panel, consisting of 21 researchers, business people and university administrators, says its report will encourage funding to focus on research that will be most likely to generate products and job to promote economic growth, study chairman Chad Holliday, former chief executive of chemical company DuPont and now chairman of the board of Bank of America, told Nature. "We are trying to be the first in the world to leading-edge technology, because that brings the most prosperity to the American people," Holliday said.

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Avatar of: DK

Anonymous

August 24, 2011

Obviously written by a group with more experience in business than in research. With friends like these  . . .

Avatar of: J Clark

Anonymous

August 24, 2011

Seems extremely perverse that these will come out as "Academy of Sciences" recommendations.  What about basic science that will lead to unknowable future innovations, but no immediate products?  What about understandings that will enhance the well-being of people and perhaps even save much money, such as prevention of physical and mental health problems, but lead to no products?  What about behavioral research that will help us to understand and eventually control such harmful things as prejudice and violence, but again lead to no products?  What about research into the misbehavior of banks like Bank of America in the mortgage crisis? What about research into the dangers of products like Dupont's Imprelis weed-killer, recently banned by the EPA (also demonstrates the problems with excessive or sole focus on business considerations in product development)? ...

Avatar of: Trnsplnt

Anonymous

August 24, 2011

I suspect that a majority of those 21 researchers were MDs.  In my experience, MDs have little to no understanding of the clear and obvious importance of basic research to the advancement of science and technology.  That's sad, perverse, and the product of what motivates and funds the average MD doing medical research.  As far as the rest of the panel, biznussmen and admins (representing the level of science history knowledge of the general public) can't reasonably be expected to understand the impact of research, or how its done.  That's the result of the poor state of science education in the US.  The result is a report that's sure to please politicians and other people who don't know what science research is.

Avatar of: CM

Anonymous

August 24, 2011

What about focusing on the ever expanding administration at universities? As stated by Benjamin Ginsberg in the article entitled "Faculty Fallout" published in the August 2011 issue of The Scientist, "What administrators do with a good many tuition and research dollars is reward themselves and expand their own ranks".  We've certainly seen this at my institution where administrators have shamelessly given themselves millions of dollars in bonuses, while hard working faculty face severe budget cuts that even impact already low salaries.  I'm shocked that reserachers would be targeted by this group for more belt tightening, when there is an obvious problem elsewhere.

Avatar of: Trnsplnt

Anonymous

August 24, 2011

 “We are trying to be the first in the world to leading-edge technology, because that brings the most prosperity to the American people,â€쳌 Holliday said.

Sad that what they're doing will produce the opposite effect, but how would the chairman of the Bank of America know that?

Where is the reform of overhead costs?  Where is the reform of university administrative cost?  Where is the reform of the NIH extramural funding system?  Instead of anything helpful we're merely getting what's politically expedient.

Avatar of: David

Anonymous

August 24, 2011

This is a poorly disguised attempt by the commercial voices to turn American academic research into R&D units for corporations.  This trend began during the Bush administration, and I am saddened that the Obama administration allows it to continue.  This approach will hinder acquisition of the unanticipated results that come from fundamental research which ultimately drive the applied sciences and eventually commercial R&D.  That will merely choke the economic engine in the long run, and the US will lose its current research advantage.  Very disheartening that such recommendations come out of the NAS.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

August 24, 2011

Obviously written by a group with more experience in business than in research. With friends like these  . . .

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

August 24, 2011

Seems extremely perverse that these will come out as "Academy of Sciences" recommendations.  What about basic science that will lead to unknowable future innovations, but no immediate products?  What about understandings that will enhance the well-being of people and perhaps even save much money, such as prevention of physical and mental health problems, but lead to no products?  What about behavioral research that will help us to understand and eventually control such harmful things as prejudice and violence, but again lead to no products?  What about research into the misbehavior of banks like Bank of America in the mortgage crisis? What about research into the dangers of products like Dupont's Imprelis weed-killer, recently banned by the EPA (also demonstrates the problems with excessive or sole focus on business considerations in product development)? ...

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

August 24, 2011

I suspect that a majority of those 21 researchers were MDs.  In my experience, MDs have little to no understanding of the clear and obvious importance of basic research to the advancement of science and technology.  That's sad, perverse, and the product of what motivates and funds the average MD doing medical research.  As far as the rest of the panel, biznussmen and admins (representing the level of science history knowledge of the general public) can't reasonably be expected to understand the impact of research, or how its done.  That's the result of the poor state of science education in the US.  The result is a report that's sure to please politicians and other people who don't know what science research is.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

August 24, 2011

What about focusing on the ever expanding administration at universities? As stated by Benjamin Ginsberg in the article entitled "Faculty Fallout" published in the August 2011 issue of The Scientist, "What administrators do with a good many tuition and research dollars is reward themselves and expand their own ranks".  We've certainly seen this at my institution where administrators have shamelessly given themselves millions of dollars in bonuses, while hard working faculty face severe budget cuts that even impact already low salaries.  I'm shocked that reserachers would be targeted by this group for more belt tightening, when there is an obvious problem elsewhere.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

August 24, 2011

 “We are trying to be the first in the world to leading-edge technology, because that brings the most prosperity to the American people,â€쳌 Holliday said.

Sad that what they're doing will produce the opposite effect, but how would the chairman of the Bank of America know that?

Where is the reform of overhead costs?  Where is the reform of university administrative cost?  Where is the reform of the NIH extramural funding system?  Instead of anything helpful we're merely getting what's politically expedient.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

August 24, 2011

This is a poorly disguised attempt by the commercial voices to turn American academic research into R&D units for corporations.  This trend began during the Bush administration, and I am saddened that the Obama administration allows it to continue.  This approach will hinder acquisition of the unanticipated results that come from fundamental research which ultimately drive the applied sciences and eventually commercial R&D.  That will merely choke the economic engine in the long run, and the US will lose its current research advantage.  Very disheartening that such recommendations come out of the NAS.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

August 24, 2011

Obviously written by a group with more experience in business than in research. With friends like these  . . .

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

August 24, 2011

Seems extremely perverse that these will come out as "Academy of Sciences" recommendations.  What about basic science that will lead to unknowable future innovations, but no immediate products?  What about understandings that will enhance the well-being of people and perhaps even save much money, such as prevention of physical and mental health problems, but lead to no products?  What about behavioral research that will help us to understand and eventually control such harmful things as prejudice and violence, but again lead to no products?  What about research into the misbehavior of banks like Bank of America in the mortgage crisis? What about research into the dangers of products like Dupont's Imprelis weed-killer, recently banned by the EPA (also demonstrates the problems with excessive or sole focus on business considerations in product development)? ...

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

August 24, 2011

I suspect that a majority of those 21 researchers were MDs.  In my experience, MDs have little to no understanding of the clear and obvious importance of basic research to the advancement of science and technology.  That's sad, perverse, and the product of what motivates and funds the average MD doing medical research.  As far as the rest of the panel, biznussmen and admins (representing the level of science history knowledge of the general public) can't reasonably be expected to understand the impact of research, or how its done.  That's the result of the poor state of science education in the US.  The result is a report that's sure to please politicians and other people who don't know what science research is.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

August 24, 2011

What about focusing on the ever expanding administration at universities? As stated by Benjamin Ginsberg in the article entitled "Faculty Fallout" published in the August 2011 issue of The Scientist, "What administrators do with a good many tuition and research dollars is reward themselves and expand their own ranks".  We've certainly seen this at my institution where administrators have shamelessly given themselves millions of dollars in bonuses, while hard working faculty face severe budget cuts that even impact already low salaries.  I'm shocked that reserachers would be targeted by this group for more belt tightening, when there is an obvious problem elsewhere.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

August 24, 2011

 “We are trying to be the first in the world to leading-edge technology, because that brings the most prosperity to the American people,â€쳌 Holliday said.

Sad that what they're doing will produce the opposite effect, but how would the chairman of the Bank of America know that?

Where is the reform of overhead costs?  Where is the reform of university administrative cost?  Where is the reform of the NIH extramural funding system?  Instead of anything helpful we're merely getting what's politically expedient.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

August 24, 2011

This is a poorly disguised attempt by the commercial voices to turn American academic research into R&D units for corporations.  This trend began during the Bush administration, and I am saddened that the Obama administration allows it to continue.  This approach will hinder acquisition of the unanticipated results that come from fundamental research which ultimately drive the applied sciences and eventually commercial R&D.  That will merely choke the economic engine in the long run, and the US will lose its current research advantage.  Very disheartening that such recommendations come out of the NAS.

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