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Fiscal Cliff would be Devastating to Brown University

Saturday, December 15, 2012


If Congress fails to reach an agreement to avert going over so the so-called fiscal cliff, research funding at some of the national top institutions – including Brown University— could be in danger, according to Clyde Briant, Vice President of Research at Brown.

In a question and answer segment posted online, Briant said not reaching and a compromise would force sever cuts upon agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, which is many institutions receive their funding.

"The American Association for the Advancement of Science estimates that federal research and development spending nationwide could be cut by at least $50 billion over five years," Briant said. "If the level of support drops as dramatically as is called for under sequestration, it would profoundly change the way in which universities have to approach their research endeavors."

Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, Washington lawmakers are expected to craft legislation that would trim the nation’s deficit by $1.2 trillion over a decade. But if a deal cannot be reached by the end of the year, an automatic round of cuts will be triggered, which would include many research-based agencies. In addition, the majority of American households could see a tax increase thanks to the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts as well as the 2 percent temporary cuts to payroll taxes for businesses.

Briant said the cuts could have substantial economic effect on Rhode Island.

"I do worry about the long-term impacts on economic development if the cuts are as severe and sustained as is possible,” he said. “At a very basic level, research funding has an economic impact through salaries and support for faculty, staff, graduate students, and postdocs, who spend their money in the community. Cuts there certainly have the potential for local economic impact. But beyond that, universities are great producers of ideas. Those ideas are the economic generators of tomorrow."


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