What do you do if you are a university that relies on federal funding to fuel your research programs during a time of austerity, when the sequestration threatens to whittle down your funding for nearly a decade, and Congress is considering whacking research funding down even more?
More specifically, you target the very class of people who are drafting the budgets.
A large group of US universities have done just that; by publishing an open letter in the Washington politics pub Politco yesterday urging Congress to stop the budget cuts to research and education. In it, they say that America's culture of innovation and its global competitiveness are "in serious jeopardy."
The letter from the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and more than 160 other representatives from US universities says that "eroding federal investments" in science and higher education and the sequestration are creating "a new kind of deficit for the United States, an innovation deficit," and fixing that should be "a national imperative."
Technological innovation — much of the result of federal investments — helped build the US into the economic powerhouse it became after World War II, the letter says.
Looking at that success, other nations like China, Singapore, Korea, and others "have dramatically increased" their funding for research and education, outpacing US R&D spending by a rate of two to four times, the university groups note. They say it is also disturbing that the US has dropped to the 12th spot among developed countries in the number of young adults with college degrees.
"Our nation is rapidly losing ground, and further cuts including sequestration will only exacerbate the problem," they write.
Their big point is that this slippage in innovation is hurting the country's fiscal health and, over the long term, will harm the deficit reduction cause, rather than helping trim it.
"We call upon you to reject unsound budget cuts and recommit to strong and sustained investments in research and education. Only then can we ensure that our nation’s promise of a better tomorrow endures," the groups state.