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New Spending Bill A Mixed Bag for Harvard Research, Spokesperson Says

By Matthew Q. Clarida, Crimson Staff Writer

Despite increasing the amount of federal funds available for scientific research, the $1.1 trillion spending bill that passed in Congress last week does not do enough to restore funding to the agencies that fuel much of the investigative work occurring at Harvard and other institutions across the nation, a University spokesperson said Friday.

If signed by President Obama—and there has been no indication that he will veto the bipartisan effort—the legislation would lessen, slightly, the effects of sequestration. The NIH, a top awarder of research grants, would see its budget increase to $29.9 billion, a 2.8 percent bump from FY 2013 post-sequester levels, according to a notice posted by Harvard’s Office of Sponsored Research. The NSF, another significant awarder, would see its budget increase to $7.17 billion, $288 million more than its FY 2013 post-sequester level.

Both agencies had requested significantly more funding than they ultimately received in the spending bill, and neither saw its funding restored to pre-sequester levels.

“The sequester lops 5 [percent] off federal research accounts each year; this bill only mitigates these cuts for the next two years, and it only softens the blow by about half,” University spokesperson Kevin Galvin wrote in the Friday statement. “The sequester still will result in delayed discoveries, cures, treatments and technologies, and its impact on the next generation of scientists cannot be measured."

Last spring, when across-the-board federal budget cuts—collectively known as sequestration—took effect, Harvard researchers who had faced shrinking and stagnant funding levels worried that the pot of money available for research grants might dry up even more. The sequester mandated budget cuts of approximately five percent from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation and an eight percent budget reduction from defense agencies that provide research funding.

Both within and outside of Harvard, University President Drew G. Faust has also been vocal about the impact of the sequester. During her Commencement address in May, Faust detailed the ramifications of the cuts and warned that Harvard—which received over $650 million in federal research funding in fiscal year 2012—could lose tens of millions of dollars annually as long as the automatic cuts continued.

Faust, who according to Galvin was traveling to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, could not be reached for comment.

—Staff writer Matthew Q. Clarida can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MattClarida.

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