Research still dependent on federal funding

Research being carried out at the Microscopy l...
Research being carried out at the Microscopy lab of the . This photo was taken on July 28, 2006 using a Nikon D70. For more information about INL’s research projects and career opportunities, visit the lab’s facebook site. www.facebook.com/idahonationallaboratory (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The future of research funding has been called into question, according to John Belisle, a microbiology, immunology and pathology professor.

“This (shutdown) is a reflection of all the federal budget problems and the inability to have a budget,” Belisle said.

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Belisle states that before 2008, 15 percent of research grants were funded by the government. This year, it is down to 8 percent, and more research cuts are expected in the near future. For Belisle, the decline in research funding and the recent shutdown are both an indication of larger governmental issues.

“The bigger impact is the inability to plan, based on federal budgets and reduced funding for projects,” Belisle said. “Overall, the percentage of funding (from the government) is going down.”

The shutdown caused a variety of issues for researchers across the nation.

“We have researchers all over the country and world who…no longer (had) access to their fieldwork,” said Kathi Delehoy, senior associate vice president for research.

Delehoy revealed that the shutdown affected university research in many ways. First, many research projects received ‘stop work orders,’ which forced investigative researchers to cease all work immediately. Delehoy stated that this sometimes happened in the middle of an experiment.

“It (gave) people an uneasy feeling, to say the least,” Delehoy said. “People will be glad to back on their projects.”

Researchers also found themselves unable to access databases with information and other resources that was crucial to their projects.

“The federal government keeps a lot of the most important data, and almost all of those sites (were) down,” said Stephan Weiler, a research associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts.

Weiler was concerned for both the researchers and the students who were affected by the inability to access data.

“Data is a big problem,” Weiler said. “We use (the federal data sites) in our research, and students use them in their capstone projects.”

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According to Delehoy, many project proposals, which had not yet received approval, were delayed. This could be harmful to the project, as many were under a specific deadline for approval.

The microbiology, immunology and pathology department has felt many of the effects of the shutdown.

According to Belisle, the department has been unable to obtain clinical samples needed to work on their current projects surrounding diagnostics for tuberculosis. The department is also unable to receive any of the necessary work permits and has been unable to collaborate with the Center for Disease Control in Fort Collins.

“We had to reschedule our research activities and our plans,” Belisle said.

CSU’s overseeing research department also had to cancel some of their plans. Delehoy explained that the department had planned on hosting a National Science Foundation regional conference, which would have hosted 250 people from around the nation, but has been canceled due to the shutdown.

“We (may) not get to hold one this year,” Delehoy said.

Belisle explained how his department has been waiting for funding that is now delayed.

“It’s a snowball effect,” Belisle said. “As (the government) gets backed up with research projects, it takes them longer and longer to catch up.”

Collegian City Beat Reporter Caitlin Curley can be reached at news@collegian.com.