By Adam Wollner
University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty members expressed concern Wednesday to U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., that the sequester, a series of automatic federal spending cuts that recently took effect, could have a devastating impact on research programs.
UW-Madison President Kevin Reilly announced last month that the sequester could eliminate $35 million in funding from university research projects, but Pocan said he wanted to learn about the specific effects the spending cuts might have so he could share them with other members of Congress.
In total, the sequester resulted in an across-the-board U.S. budget cut of $1.2 trillion, which will be implemented over the next nine years and will affect nationwide programs that currently receive funding from federal discretionary spending.
"We know there is a very serious impact the [sequestration] will have on the University of Wisconsin," Pocan said. "A lot of important things in medicine, technology and sciences come out of the university system, and the impact it has locally is almost impossible to express."
Throughout the discussion at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, the 11 researchers indicated they worried reductions in federal funding would deter students from entering the research field, putting the country at risk of losing its next generation of scientists and falling further behind in innovation and technology internationally.
"Some of my very best students have come to me before the sequestration to say that they do not see a future in science," UW-Madison biochemistry professor Judith Kimble said. "These are incredibly talented young scientists who don't see a future. This is a morale issue that is very widespread now."
After the roundtable discussion, Pocan said he was optimistic that members from both parties in Congress could reach an agreement to avoid the full impact of the sequester, and ultimately they could increase funding for research and development programs, which he believes will stimulate long-term economic growth.
"I'm hopeful," Pocan said. "As [legislators] go back home they're also going to hear some of these specifics stories from people and he more that we hear this, the more likely we are to realize these aren't the kind of cuts you want to do."