Budget proposal may endanger research

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A recent proposal from Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to cut non-defense discretionary spending could adversely affect research institutions, including UT, said UT’s vice president for research, Juan Sanchez. The federal fiscal year officially ended in September 2010, and since then, agencies have operated on the belief that their budgets for the fiscal year of 2011 would be renewed. But House Republicans are now preparing to pass a resolution to carry the government through the next fiscal year and set a limit on the amount they are willing to spend. The bill, which has not yet been released, could impact institutions such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. The bill could also reduce the U.S. Department of Energy’s budget by 18 percent, or about $800 million. “This is a cut that is based on spending for the entire year, but all of those $880 million have to be cut out of what was being spent in those seven months,” said Barry Toiv, spokesman for the Association of American Universities. “That makes it a much steeper cut.” The proposal would have to pass in the Senate and then be signed by President Obama, so there is still uncertainty about the adverse effects it could have, Toiv said. “The truth is we just don’t know what’s going to happen now,” Toiv said. “But it is something that we hope that anybody who hears about energy research that is funded by the Department of Energy will let Congress know these are cuts that don’t help our country.” For UT, these budget cuts would mean those working on research would have to compete more for limited funding. “When there is less money to compete for, the quality of the faculty, the quality of the proposals, the quality of ideas become the dominant factor,” Sanchez said. “We have a good track record in that area.” Laura Kuri, biochemistry senior and president of the Science Undergraduate Studies Research Group, said she thinks the cuts could hurt UT’s research capabilities. “UT is one of the most important research universities in the country,” Kuri said. “I think it’s really unfair because we provide a lot of insight and knowledge to the research world.” Although research institutions will lose a large portion of their funding, some are still not too concerned about this change. “[Research] is the number-one thing we’re known for,” said human biology sophomore Collin Johnson. “We’ve had our share of budget cuts in the past, and everybody knew it was going to keep coming, so we’ll just keep doing what we do, basically.”