Prioritizing federal funding for university research will have a lasting impact on the United States as a world leader, said Cornell President David Skorton, joining other university leaders at an April 15 meeting with the Senate Republican Conference in Washington, D.C.
Skorton addressed the senators as one of several representatives of the Science Coalition, a group of 400 institutions, organizations and individuals that advocate for federal funding for scientific research. The meeting was hosted by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Republican Conference.
Among the topics discussed at the meeting: what Congress can do to strengthen universities' cutting-edge research efforts; the next frontiers in high-tech research; and some practical results of research that began at universities.
Making Cornell's case for increased research funding, Skorton pointed to groundbreaking nanoscience research taking place in at least four colleges and several dozen departments at the university. He pointed out how a new scanning transmission electron microscope recently installed in Duffield Hall and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) allows atomic research on ever-smaller scales.
Yet, he noted, Cornell is feeling the effects of cuts in science research funding. In the 2008 federal omnibus spending bill, the university lost at least $2 million in high-energy physics research funding. As a result, the Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator-Based Sciences and Education had to lay off 22 percent of its staff, he said.
The national university leaders also urged future funding of the America COMPETES Act, signed by President Bush on Aug. 9, 2007, which would double funding for the NSF to $11.2 billion in 2011 from $5.6 billion in 2006. The law seeks to ensure that U.S. students, teachers, businesses and workers will continue to be world leaders in science, innovation, research and technology.