The partnership between the U.S. government and American research universities that has for decades enabled discoveries, cures for disease and unprecedented scientific advancement is under threat, according to a statement by the Association of American Universities.
Cornell President Martha E. Pollack attended the spring meeting of the presidents and chancellors of the AAU member universities this week and strongly supports the statement, which warns of the harm that could be done to U.S. research leadership and innovation if proposed cuts to federal research budgets – such as those in the Trump administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 – are enacted.
For decades since World War II, federal funding for research universities has “propelled America to be the global leader in innovation,” the AAU stated. The proposed cuts would cripple universities’ ability to generate economic growth and provide jobs, and could collapse historic partnerships that have enabled innovative research to advance the economy, improve public health, strengthen national security, and train the next generation of scientists and engineers.
Pollack said: “Research and discovery is a crucial part of Cornell’s mission: The new knowledge we create contributes in many ways to our society. Without a continued partnership with the federal government, our ability to do this work will be severely curtailed.”
The statement calls on Americans to join the AAU in urging U.S. leaders to renew and strengthen this partnership, which thrived through numerous Republican and Democratic administrations over the past 70 years.
While in Washington, Pollack also met with several lawmakers, including Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY, and Congressman Tom Reed, R-NY. In those meetings, she expressed concern about proposed cuts to federal research agencies and highlighted the potential consequences for Cornell. She encouraged them to support robust and sustained funding for science.
The full text of the AAU statement follows:
“American science has put a man on the moon, ended polio, sequenced the human genome, connected the world through the internet and then placed it in the palm of your hand, and allowed us to diagnose countless medical conditions with the aid of an MRI. The partnership that has enabled this now faces an existential threat. At the same time our nation’s greatest economic competitors are rapidly gaining ground. We must reaffirm our commitment to the extraordinary partnership the federal government has built with American universities that has fostered unprecedented scientific achievement and economic growth in the United States since WWII. This partnership has generated untold job growth, greatly improved our national health, and reinforced our national security.
“The federal government forged a unique partnership with American universities to perform innovative research to advance our economy, improve public health, strengthen national security, and at the same time train our nation’s next generation of scientists and engineers. In return, the federal government provides universities with peer-reviewed and competitively awarded grants to support the people, tools, and infrastructure necessary to conduct the highest quality of research for the American people.
“There are now proposals in Washington to slash the federal research budgets that have propelled America to be the global leader in innovation. This would cripple our ability to do our part in generating economic growth and providing more jobs for Americans. If these cuts are enacted, the partnership that has been reinforced through both Republican and Democratic administrations over the past 70 years could literally collapse. Our nation’s research agencies cannot survive deep budget cuts and sustain the promise of America's leadership in scientific, technological, and economic advancement.
“We call on every American who cares about the welfare, security, and prosperity of our nation to join us in urging our nation’s leaders to renew and strengthen this partnership. Our economy depends on our ability to create the technologies, cures, and jobs of the future.”