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Friday, March 1, 2013 - 12:39pm

Sequestration Hurts GA Universities

Sequestration cuts could hit Georgia’s research universities hard. School officials believe current projects may be safe, but it will be much harder to get future federal research grants.

Georgia Regents University has 54 million dollars in research funded by the National Institute of Health. Georgia Tech received a total of 484 million in federal research funding. While the University of Georgia receives about 140 million a year in federal research funds.

Dr. David Lee, Vice President of Research at UGA, says the NIH and National Science Foundation have said the cuts won’t impact existing projects.
“They intend to try and protect existing research agreements and fund those largely as committed. And instead what will happen is they will reduce funding for new awards going forward.”he says.

He’s worried about the impact on students who are considering getting into research and development.

“They’re seeing all of this chaos, all of this uncertainty with funding. They’re watching their faculty role models struggle to obtain funding and struggle with all this uncertainty. And that’s obviously not much of an incentive to get them to go into the fields.”says Lee.

Georgia Tech expects cuts of nearly 8 percent in defense-focused research and more than 5 percent cuts in other programs. That could result in a reduction of 40 million dollars in funds for Georgia Tech.

David Hefner, CEO of Georgia Regents Medical Center, says they will be losing millions of dollars in Medicare funding to the hospital.

He says “In the next four months probably 2 million dollars and over the next year probably 10 to 12 million dollars. So we’ve been planning for events like this for the past year and a half to two years and the reality is now beginning to take place.”

Hefner says they should be able to absorb the cuts. But he is worried about what could happen when Congress does reach some agreement.

Hefner says if they decide to go with cuts recommended by the Simpson-Bowles Commission, Georgia Regents could lose 11 million dollars a year from its graduate medical education program. That could seriously impact Georgia’s efforts to get more medical residents to stay in the state.

Raymond Dingledine, the dean of Emory University’s School of Medicine says they expect a shortfall this year of 10 and a half million dollars to nearly 15 million dollars. He says with 70 percent of their budget going to salaries, the cuts will hurt every department in Emory's School of Medicine.

David Lee says he's also worried about losing research teams. Many are funded solely through federal grants. UGA has what it calls bridge funding to help research teams stay together in between grants. But Lee says they don't have enough money to do that on a large scale. He says the university would have to focus on protecting its graduate students.

Lee is worried that research teams would break up and move on to other universities. And that would hurt future research efforts in Georgia. He says private industry used to conduct a lot of research and development. But business is more focused on the bottom line, and Lee says executives have come to rely more on universities to conduct needed research. He wants more steady funding sources for research so schools are less dependent on money caught up in political battles.