UIC prepares for impact of federal budget cuts

UIC administrators are preparing for the impact of the broad federal spending cuts known as sequestration, which took effect Friday.

“These cuts will result in significant budget cuts across federal agencies which would impact both new and existing UIC federal research awards and other federally-funded programs,” Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares wrote in a Feb. 28 email to the campus community.

“There is a great deal of uncertainty about what will happen.”

Allen-Meares said she is working with campus leaders to “evaluate the impact of any cuts on the campus and to develop plans to address the funding issues created.”

President Obama and members of Congress failed to reach compromise last week to avoid sequestration, a reduction of $85 billion in federal spending.

“These cuts risk forfeiting our nation’s competitive advantage in science and we risk losing star faculty, who could be lured away by international competitors investing in research,” Nancy Sullivan, director of the Office of Technology Management, said at a news conference Friday sponsored by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

UIC could lose $24 million in federal funding this fiscal year, including $18 million in biomedical research funds from both the east and west sides of campus, said Mitra Dutta, vice chancellor for research.

“The sequestration sends a negative message to our researchers that our lawmakers in this country are not serious about our research and future innovation and therefore our economic development agenda,” Dutta said.

“It will have a negative impact on our future researchers, particularly postdocs as well as those in the pipeline of graduate and undergraduate students, and perhaps even high school students.”

Funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and other federal agencies has led to many scientific breakthroughs at UIC, Sullivan said.

“Research is an economic force, and carving it out of our federal budget will be detrimental to our economy,” she said. “Reducing funded projects could lead to fewer breakthroughs in cancer, Alzheimer’s or HIV/AIDS.”

Because of the sequestration, the National Institutes of Health plans to reduce the dollar amounts of existing grants and the number of competitive grants it will issue, Sullivan said.

“For us at the university, this is a double hit,” she said.

The National Science Foundation plans to issue 1,000 fewer grants nationally and reduce the dollar amounts of future awards, Sullivan said.

“These and other proposed funding reductions may not only halt the advancement of new breakthroughs in medicine, national security, agriculture and energy, but also will harm the career development of young researchers who will be the next generation of scientists to keep our nation globally competitive,” she said.

“Cuts to research funding means jobs will be lost — not only at the University of Illinois but at research institutions, national laboratories, and the supporting industries across the country.”

For more information, visit the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research website.

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