Effects of the Government Shutdown

[F]urther jeopardizing federal research funding is next Thursday’s deadline for Congress to either raise the nation’s borrowing authority or cause the government to start missing payments on its obligations.

Oh, my! Now I am truly feeling the effects of the government shutdown! In particular, an article from Inside Higher Ed (titled “Moving Beyond Congress”) caught my attention, in terms of discussing the merits of reliance on the federal government versus state governments and businesses for monetary support.

The shutdown seems to affect my future direction in the following nontrivial way: I am applying for a fellowship[1] from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that would fund my first three years of doctoral training, starting next year. The shutdown is particularly troubling because NSF funds approximately 20% of all federally supported basic research conducted by the United States’ colleges and universities[2], at least according to Wikipedia. And the NSF is on hiatus until the government shutdown officially ends! Nevertheless, it is extremely difficult to think of more suitable sources of funding at the state level for the specific research areas I want to pursue (i.e., mathematics education – categorized[3] under “STEM Education and Learning Research” or statistics[4] – categorized under “Mathematical Sciences”). To clarify, STEM education is broadly defined as “teaching and learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics” (Gonzalez and Kuenzi 2012, sec. Summary). What is more, the NSF provides financial support for numerous STEM education programs, which the federal government asserts is indeed a high priority!

Sure, state governments and businesses may have large amounts of money to provide; however, STEM education most likely does not align with (aspects of) the core objectives of state businesses. For this reason, I question the advice – for leaders of American research universities – to shift energy “away from lobbying Congress and focus more on partnerships with state governments and businesses” (Stratford 2013). Whether partnerships with state governments and businesses are beneficial would depend on the type of research question being investigated, as some disciplines (e.g., civil engineering, aerospace engineering, agriculture) seem to lend themselves more readily to applications in industry (i.e., outside academia). What do readers think? I would more than welcome your thoughts on this topic, especially as the government shutdown continues.

References

Gonzalez, Heather B., and Jeffrey J. Kuenzi. 2012. “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education: A Primer.” Congressional Research Service. CRS Report for Congress (August 1). http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42642.pdf.

Stratford, Michael. 2013. “Moving Beyond Congress.” Leaders Urge Research Universities to Look Beyond U.S. Government for Support | Inside Higher Ed. October 11. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/10/11/leaders-urge-research-universities-look-beyond-us-government-support.


[1]Namely, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP).

[2]see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Science_Foundation#cite_note-NSF_Site-1

[3]according to the appendix of the 2014 NSF GRFP Program Solicitation (NSF 13-584).

[4]that would focus on research methodologies in education.

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