ISU official: sequestration could cut research

Howard Grimes says the way agencies respond to automatic budget cuts known as sequestration will make all the difference in higher education.

Grimes, Idaho State University’s vice president for research and economic development, said he is concerned the cuts could hamper the country’s standing in research activities.

“Any downsizing – that frankly has a huge impact to our nation’s competitive status (for research and innovation),” Grimes said.

Howard Grimes ISU
Howard Grimes (photo courtesy of Idaho State and Washington State universities)

Although he said it is too early to tell how the cuts will be handled, Grimes said some groups, such as the National Science Foundation, hope to deal with cuts by diminishing future grants and awards. This is seen as a way to minimize disruptions to researchers who already received grants.

Others have not addressed how they will respond. To protect colleges and universities, Grimes asks that they be given a say in handling specific cuts.

“Flexibility is the key… to maintain flexibility so we can minimize and mitigate the negative impacts,” Grimes said.

With most federal agencies bracing for 5 to 8 percent cuts, Grimes said federal grant cuts could carry a $1 million to $1.6 million impact at ISU.

“But that could be dramatically larger or smaller, all depending on how they are implemented,” Grimes said.

He emphasized that holdbacks at the individual agency level have yet to be determined.

Either way, the Center for Advanced Energy Studies program — a partnership between the state, Idaho National Laboratory and Idaho’s research universities — likely will be affected because of its funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“There is no reason to think the DOE will be exempt from holdbacks,” Grimes said. “We expect they will be impacted in the same way (as other agencies).”

Finally, Grimes said some media reports referencing a fiscal cliff and immediate, drastic cuts are unhelpful. Rather than going over a cliff, Grimes likened the process to rolling down a hill.

“It will be months before all of the process takes place,” Grimes said.

Boise State University officials don’t yet know how cuts will affect BSU, spokeswoman Kathleen Tuck said Wednesday. She referred questions to a BSU official who she said would be able to discuss the cuts when more information becomes available.

For a look at how the automatic cuts will impact K-12 education, check out Kevin Richert’s article from Friday. 

Disclosure: Idaho Education News is housed under Boise State University; its staffers are BSU employees.

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