The Multibillion-Dollar Threat to Research Universities

The Multibillion-Dollar Threat to Research Universities

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With each day, the so-called fiscal cliff looms larger as Congress and President Obama work to come to agreement on a federal-deficit compromise, which so far has proven elusive. Absent such an agreement by year’s end, far-reaching spending cuts will be triggered as result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, through a mechanism called sequestration. These reductions in federal spending, expected to total more than $1-trillion over the next nine years, would reduce the country’s budget deficit—but would almost certainly come at a perilously high cost to the short-term stability and long-term vitality of the U.S. economy.

The stakes could hardly be higher for research universities, which are the engines that power much of the country’s scientific, technological, and economic growth. Universities account for more than half of the basic research conducted in the United States, work that often serves as the backbone of commercial research-and-development efforts by private-sector companies.

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