University research budgets face potential roadblocks ahead: report

by Jeremy

Dive Brief: 

  • While external research funding to colleges and universities has been holding steady, the economic downturn could strain their research budgets, according to a new report from research and consulting firm Ithaka S+R.
  • Their outlook hinges partly on whether the Biden administration provides more support for research activities, mainly work the health crisis interrupted, the authors wrote.
  • Research costs are often higher than what grants provide, and without reliable funding, colleges could be forced to pare back these activities.

Dive Insight:

The pandemic has stalled research and made it harder for some universities to access their grants for existing projects. However, it’s unclear so far whether the new administration will address these issues. Support made available through recent relief legislation has focused instead on combating the coronavirus.

The coronavirus relief package enacted in late December gave nearly $1.3 billion to the National Institutes of Health to support research into the long-term effects of COVID-19 and the development of diagnostics for the disease.

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The package also devotes funding for research to other government agencies, but it came up short of what higher education groups were seeking. In May, four prominent associations wrote a letter to Congressional leaders requesting at least $26 billion in emergency relief funding across several federal agencies, including the NIH, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

The requested funds wouldn’t be enough to expand research, they wrote. Still, instead, they would help colleges defray costs associated with pandemic-related disruptions and step up existing projects that had been slowed or paused.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to start voting on another coronavirus relief package this week. It includes $100 million for the Institute of Education Sciences to research learning loss caused by the pandemic.

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