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Sequestration Spotlight: Research Community Gets Involved

Add the nation’s research community to those joining the chorus of upset voices decrying automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that will begin going into effect Friday.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is calling on Congress to develop a bipartisan solution, saying in a petition that sequestration is a threat to national competitiveness.

“Today, AAAS is asking for your help in urging federal policymakers to protect R&D funding from these potentially devastating cuts…That is not good for science, but it is also bad for an economy whose growth is driven by advances in science and technology,” AAAS chief executive Alan Leshner said in a letter on the ‘Speak up for Science’ petition that features comments and videos from researchers, scientists and students. Implementing the sequestration cuts would mean a loss through 2017 of $57 billion to research and development, AAAS says.

KETC’s Jim Kirchherr

Jim Kirchherr of PBS NewsHour public media partner KETC in St Louis, Mo., says that based on conversations with his sources, the cuts would make a big impact on a major research university in his community.

“Washington University, which gets hundreds of millions of dollars in federal research grants, has put out a statement that says how specifically it would impact in particular areas of research,” Kirchherr said.

Some of the research the university conducts includes studies on Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. “They told me that last fiscal year they were doing $452 million of federally funded scientific research in fiscal year 2012. Their message has been that it’s a lost opportunity to the nation’s global competitiveness.”

Based on his reporting, Kirchherr says that the impact of the cuts may mean less money for a particular research project or result in a project not receiving funding.

“I think I saw a number that for every time you get a grant to do some research, you are going to hire five or six people to work out that project and that’s an employment issue, and I think that is what this is going to come down to,” Kirchherr said.

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