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Commentary: Congress Should Not Skimp On Funding Research

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Jack DeGioia is the president of Georgetown University.
Georgetown University
Jack DeGioia is the president of Georgetown University.

When Congress returns to Washington next week, lawmakers will have to make choices about how to spend the government’s money. They’ll have to follow the broad budget outline Congress passed in December, but they can make decisions about funding for thousands of federal programs and line items. Commentator Jack DeGioia — president of Georgetown University — is urging Congress to support research in D.C. and across the country.

On December 26, President Obama signed into law a bipartisan budget agreement, the result of coordinated leadership in the House and Senate, as well as the executive branch. Congress and the Administration deserve credit for taking this important step in bringing a more rational approach to deficit reduction.

But juggling competing demands within the now finalized spending caps will not be easy.

One urgent area for focus is the need to restore funding for research programs that are critical to the future strength of our economy and health of our fellow Americans and beyond.

The sequester weakened an already deteriorating commitment of support for research in our nation. Support for research at the National Institutes of Health has declined 5.5 percent, overall federal support for research has declined 3.3 percent. Spending on research at our nation’s universities declined this past year for the first time since 1974.

This is occurring at time when other countries are significantly increasing their commitment to research. China has increased spending by 15 percent.

At Georgetown, we have seen first-hand the impact of the sequestration cuts and last year’s partial government shutdown.

Reduced NIH funding levels have meant research proposals that would have been funded before sequestration have gone unfunded and other funding has been delayed. It is impacting scientists' ability to proceed on very promising work focusing on Alzheimer’s Disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, cancers, and malaria. The lack of funding hits especially hard at younger researchers who hold the promise for future lifesaving discoveries, and many are questioning whether scientific research is something to which they can commit their careers.

The strength of our nation has been inextricably linked with our commitment to research. In the weeks ahead, as Congress and the administration finalize the details of appropriations bills, it is imperative that we recommit ourselves to this invaluable work of research, so that once again, we can provide leadership in addressing the world’s most pressing problems.

Jack DeGioia is president of Georgetown University.



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