Cutting Back in Academia

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

Aug 23, 2011
Jef Akst

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.