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Archive for Friday, December 27, 2013

Editorial: Research support

Federal dollars are vital to universities’ ability to continue key research projects.

December 27, 2013

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Kansas government and higher education officials should never underestimate the importance of attracting federal dollars to support research at the state’s largest public universities.

Last year was a good one for Kansas University when it came to federal research support. The $171 million in federal funds KU received moved it up to 38th among the nation’s public research universities and to 75th among all universities. The only Big 12 university with a higher ranking is the much-larger University of Texas, which was No. 30. Kansas State University ranked 132nd overall and reported about $106 million in federal research grants during the last fiscal year.

Commenting on the rankings compiled by the National Science Foundation, Steve Warren, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies at KU, said, “Research is never about the money, but objective rankings such as this reflect well on KU researchers at all campuses.”

Warren is right that the most important aspect of the research being done at state universities is the discoveries and advances they provide to our society. Nonetheless, the money does matter. It pays the salaries of professors and graduate students who are conducting that research and helps attract other faculty and students who want to join in that or similar efforts. The ability of universities to continue to attract federal funds also is an important endorsement of the quality of the research they are doing.

The ongoing ability to attract federal grants is of some concern for university officials because of across-the-board budget cuts triggered by federal sequestration. KU officials say the pipeline for federal grants is drying up and they are stepping up their efforts to attract industry and foundation support for research.

While it’s good to seek new funding sources, it’s also important for Kansans and all Americans to communicate with their federal representatives about the importance of funding research at universities across the nation. While industry and foundation support is important, there are many research projects that are unlikely to attract grants from non-government sources.

The work being done by academic researchers across America has been, and will continue to be, vital to the future of our nation and the world.

Comments

Les Blevins 3 months, 2 weeks ago

2007 was the year in which a tsunami wave of concern swept the climate skeptical party from many of its seats and installed the Rudd government in Australia on a promise of attention to "the greatest moral challenge of our time". Three years later no constructive action or plan is in place in Australia. How can this be when there are truckloads of evidence regarding our imperiled planet? Without radical remedies Earth is on a path to becoming uninhabitable or hostile for most species other than, ironically, jellyfish and cockroaches. It can be difficult to imagine a different way of life. Eventually we change either because disaster strikes or we cannot dispute the facts any longer. Former US vice-president Al Gore states we risk moving from denial to despair. We mourn, rage, plead, panic and bargain; with God or science. We seek Faustian pacts with risky technological solutions, such as geo-engineering a cloud of sulphur dioxide. We propose nuclear energy, with its unresolved waste solution. We promote "clean coal" and cling to the burn, bury, extract, grow and consume paradigm. But of necessity we must reduce emissions and ultimately adapt to a new model of sustainable, renewable life on Earth. To the man with a hammer everything looks like a nail. For too long all has been viewed through a narrow economic prism. We have seen only the dollars, ignoring the priceless value of our only home like an alcoholic who continues drinking after his doctor has declared his liver is failing.

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Les Blevins 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Speaking of discoveries and advances; when I called KU about my inventions and discovery for containing global warming, protecting and conserving groundwater, bringing revitalization to the rural sector and spurring the state's economy, they seemed interested, and said they would like to see my innovation for themselves and consider applying for federal dollars to test the invention that I had already obtained patents on and done limited testing on my own. But I suppose when they realized what I proposed amounted to using renewable energy in place of fossil energy the geologists KU had me talking to quickly balked. I really didn't think I wanted to talk to geologists and that's why my request had been directed to the engineering department and when they asked that I meet two faculty members in the engineering building I was led to believe the people I'd be speaking to would actually be engineering faculty. I was too naïve I guess and believed KU had their heads on straight and would not be influenced by fossil fuel interests and prejudiced against renewable energy.

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