Sequestering our future

Federal budget cuts are hindering University research and innovation.

Daily Editorial Board

The $85 billion in automatic federal budget cuts known as the sequester bluntly damaged various programs nationwide, including the University of Minnesota’s and Mayo Clinic’s research programs.

One of the most striking funding reductions is the $1.7 billion cut from the National Institutes of Health budget. Because of this cut, 700 fewer competitive research grants will be issued in the 2013 fiscal year than in the fiscal year of 2012, and existing grants will be reduced by an average of 4.7 percent.

Many of the cuts have already been felt locally, severely altering research at both the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic. On Friday, Minnesota Public Radio reported that the Mayo expects to see about a $20 million decrease in the amount of money it receives from the NIH. The University of Minnesota estimated a $50 million decrease in its research budget.

The cuts have already impacted ongoing research on leukemia, heart disease and diabetes here at the University. The Mayo’s studies on Alzheimer’s disease were also hit.

The most frustrating part of these cuts is that they are only happening because of the ongoing gridlock in our nation’s capital. Since Congress cannot agree on a budget, important research and innovation is being jeopardized. High-skilled jobs this country is in desperate need of are actually being reduced rather than created.

It’s unlikely that Congress will come together to undo all of the damage the automatic budget cuts have incurred. However, Minnesota’s members of Congress should be made aware of how the NIH’s budget reductions are hurting the local economy and impairing vital research. They in turn should voice those concerns on the House and Senate floors.