Despite the uncertainty associated with the forthcoming budget sequestration, currently set to begin in January 2013, the House and Senate continue to draft appropriations bills that would allocate fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding for federal agencies. Recently, the Senate Subcommittee on Interior and Environment Appropriations released a spending plan that could restore funding cuts proposed in the current House bill.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) would receive $1.08 billion, an increase of $15.8 million relative to FY 2012. This is $117 million more than the current House level. Funding for the Ecosystems activity would increase by 5.8 percent; this would benefit USGS research on fisheries, wildlife, ecosystems, and invasive species. Conversely, the House plan would cut funding for Ecosystems by 17.8 percent. USGS research on climate change and carbon sequestration would receive a 2.3 percent increase in the Senate plan.
The current Senate plan also proposes to cut the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget by 4.6 percent, to $1.5 billion. Despite a proposed top-line reduction, the agency would receive increased funding for land acquisition and endangered species management. The House bill would cut $317 million from the agency’s budget.
Science and technology at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would receive about 0.6 percent more funding. This is $60.4 million more than the current level being proposed in the House of Representatives. Water research would receive an additional $1.2 million under the Senate bill, but environmental and human health research at EPA would fall by $4.1 million.
The Senate appropriations panel also proposes a 1 percent or $297.8 million increase for the United States Forest Service Forest and Rangeland Research program. All of the increase would be directed to forest inventory and analysis, whereas research and development would continue to be funded at the FY 2012 level. The program would be subject to a 16 percent cut under the current House legislation.
Declines in state funding for public research universities threatens to impair their ability to provide affordable education for new scientists and engineers, and to recruit top faculty and staff to perform high-quality research, according to a report released by the National Science Board (NSB)—the advisory body for the National Science Foundation.
The report was an expansion on the 2012 edition of Science and Engineering Indicators, which examined 101 public research universities that were among the top recipients of academic research and development funding. Those universities award more than half of U.S. doctoral and a third of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering, in addition to performing a substantial portion of basic research in those fields (greater than 50 percent in 2009). Those institutions also face declining state funding and rising college attendance.
State funding on a per-student basis at 101 major public research universities declined on average by 20 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars between 2002 and 2010, with some declines as high as 48 percent. Over the same time period, enrollment grew nationally by 13 percent. The decrease in state funding in conjunction with rising college attendance has resulted in public universities increasing student tuition in order to minimize the impact of funding cuts on research and teaching facilities. Between 1999 and 2009, revenue from tuition increased by 50 percent at public research universities.
The rising cost of education could have resounding consequences. According to a report by the Association for Public and Land-Grant Universities, of the million minorities enrolled in research universities, 80 percent attend public institutions. José-Marie Griffiths, former NSB member and vice president for Academic Affairs at Bryant University, expressed concern over this trend: “[cuts and tuition hikes] could hinder large populations of students with limited financial means from pursuing science and engineering education at world-class institutions. We need the talent of all students from all backgrounds, and we need it nationwide.”
The NSB report additionally warned of a widening gap between public and private research universities, particularly in spending per full-time student and faculty salaries, both of which have grown much faster at private research universities.
The public can now easily explore the benefits provided by ecosystem services to people and communities. The Eco-Health Relationship Browser, launched by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a new online tool that illustrates the linkages between human health and ecosystem services. The benefits of ecosystem services are summarized from over 300 peer-reviewed papers. Access the Eco-Health Relationship Browser at http://www.epa.gov/research/healthscience/browser/introduction.html.
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