Federal support is urgently needed to fund remodeling, modernization and replacement of university research facilities and equipment if the United States is to compete internationally, a University of Utah administrator testified before a U.S. Senate committee Thursday.
Dr. James J. Brophy, U. vice president for research, told the Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that America has not invested in research facilities and equipment in the last 20 years "at a rate necessary to meet the challenges posed by international competition."He reported that the investment in research facilities by federal agencies has dropped by 95 percent in real terms in the last 20 years.
Although the National Science Foundation recently recognized the need to modernize research equipment and investments in research equipment have grown, there are no federal matching grant programs to help universities address accumulated needs to modernize, repair and replace obsolete research laboratories. "Simply put, the total program is out of balance," Brophy said.
In explaining how inadequate facilities and equipment affect research, Brophy said the University of Michigan has announced that a lack of space will prevent any new grant applications, while the University of California reports a backlog of $4 billion in all facilities.
At the U. of U., he reported, $300,000 is spent annually to rent space off campus for the School of Medicine, the College of Engineering, the College of Pharmacy, the College of Nursing and the Artificial Heart Laboratory.
"We rent this space because we have been unable to accumulate capital funds to construct appropriate facilities on campus. To do otherwise would mean important research efforts in robotics, medicinal drugs and drug delivery, cancer research and continued development of the totally implantable artificial heart would go undone," Brophy testified.
He said many universities use a patchwork of funding mechanisms to finance their research facilities, including tax-exempt borrowing, charitable giving, corporate support, return on operations and private-foundation money. However, tax-exempt borrowing and charitable giving have been severely compromised by tax-code changes, Brophy said.