April 18, 2014

U-I research says health research faces biggest hit from sequestration

The University of Iowa’s top research administrator predicts the automatic federal budget cuts known as “sequestration” will affect health research projects most severely. U-I Vice President for Research, Daniel Reed, says the anticipation of those cuts is producing some immediate effects.

“We’ve certainly seen it in stress among both the faculty and staff in terms of the implications. Most of the effects, however, are more likely to be felt not with existing research projects, but with resubmission of new proposals whose decisions will be made in the coming months and over the next year,” Reed explains.

Reed says the impact on federally-funded health research projects would hit hard in the Iowa City campus, because they dominate the research dollars. But he says it will impact other areas on campus and other state schools will also feel the impact on research projects.

“Remember that sequestration was a roughly five-percent, across-the-board cut in research,” Reed says. “So, that affects researchers in engineering, the basic sciences, it touches on the arts and humanities as well. So, everyone is feeling the effects. But, in terms of dollar effects, it will be most definitely felt in health affairs.”

Reed says the anticipated sequestration cuts are intensifying an already competitive environment for winning federal research dollars.

“To put it in perspective from when I began as a researcher — more years ago than I’d like to admit — the probability of writing a successful research proposal in many disciplines was about one-in-two. It’s now down to, at best, one-in-ten. And so, it’s much more competitive than it was in the past. That’s true across the board, though, not just in health affairs, but in every discipline,” Reed says.

Faculty and staff whose salaries are paid by research grants –or so-called “soft money”– could find their jobs cut if funding isn’t renewed. Reed says that’s causing considerable stress among those researchers. In contrast, Creighton University economist, Ernie Goss says his survey of business managers in the midwest shows little impact from the sequestration cuts.