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Northwestern champions medical and scientific research

University working diligently to support researchers and students, oppose funding cuts

EVANSTON - Northwestern University is advocating on multiple fronts for the importance of funding for medical and scientific research — and the imperative of protecting its students and scholars — amid great uncertainty over budget cuts, immigration law and education policies in Washington, D.C.

RELATED: March for Science Chicago kicks off at 10 a.m. April 22

For months, President Morton Schapiro and senior officials at Northwestern have been underscoring the University’s values as they communicate to U.S. officials about the vital contribution federal funding makes to America’s innovation, research enterprise and long-term competitiveness.

“There is a great deal of concern and unease in the Northwestern community about this,” President Schapiro said. “We are committed to defending the importance of federal support for the research we do that changes lives and leads to scientific and medical advances.

“Last year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry was shared by a Northwestern professor, Sir Fraser Stoddart, whose fundamental research has had a tremendous impact on science,” he added. “This kind of discovery is the result of the advancement of knowledge that occurs at Northwestern and other top research institutions.”  

RELATED: Top University officials affirm strong support for research funding

The Trump administration has raised the prospect of deep budget rollbacks in basic scientific and medical research funding, including $5.8 billion in proposed cuts from the National Institutes of Health and $900 million from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Both are major funders of government-sponsored research done at universities and national laboratories across the country.

We are committed to defending the importance of federal support for the research we do that changes lives and leads to scientific and medical advances.

Morton Schapiro

“This federal funding of basic research is absolutely vital for the continued improvement in the quality of life of the people in the United States,” said Jay Walsh, vice president for research at Northwestern. “I firmly believe that after all the conversations on this occur, we are going to continue to see that the American public would like to see us further basic research and the quality of life for people in this country.”

More than 100 school-based centers and 53 University research centers at Northwestern create knowledge across all areas, including international and domestic policy, chemistry, neuroscience, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science and drug discovery. Northwestern scholars take on humanity’s toughest challenges, working collaboratively across disciplines to create breakthrough solutions — and a better world.

Northwestern’s Office of Government Relations has been hard at work advocating with federal officials -- and, in particular, the Illinois Congressional delegation -- to underscore the importance of the federal government maintaining its commitment to sponsored research.

At the same time, Government Relations staff members are part of a large community of higher education institutions in Washington organized to protect the interests of colleges and universities across the broad spectrum of higher education concerns, including membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU).

... federal funding of basic research is absolutely vital for the continued improvement in the quality of life of the people in the United States.

Jay Walsh
Vice president for research

President Trump’s executive orders on immigration and the environment, his proposed budget outline and his other actions and statements are a clear indication of a change from the previous administration.

They are also at odds with many of Northwestern’s objectives and values. As President Schapiro has stated on numerous occasions, the University remains committed to being a welcoming and inclusive community for all, regardless of nationality, religious belief, gender or sexual orientation. Northwestern does not discriminate and will continue to maintain a safe, healthy and harassment-free environment for all members of its community.

Promoting the University's work

Many faculty, students and staff at Northwestern are also doing what they can as individuals to promote the work of the University to U.S. officials and to advocate for the continuation of federal funding for research and laws that respect the rights of Americans and global visitors and scholars alike. For example:

  • Many will participate in the March for Science taking place in Washington on April 22 in order to emphasize the importance of science to a democratic society. Companion marches will be held the same day in Chicago and other cities.
  • Some are also writing to elected officials as individuals or members of professional societies.  The Government Relations website has guidance on how individuals can get involved within the restrictions placed on nonprofits.

Despite fears that the proposed budget cuts could imperil the Pell Grant program’s long-term sustainability, potentially harming the outlook for low-income students, Northwestern has stated that the University will continue to provide need-based financial aid for its students.

Northwestern encourages civic and political engagement by all members of the University community and offers the following as guidance for those who wish to contact government officials.

$5.8 billionproposed cut in NIH funding by the Trump administration. Northwestern receives the majority of its federal research funding from the NIH.

At the recent “Conversations with President Schapiro” event on the Chicago campus April 12, the president said: “If you look at the contribution to economic growth and prosperity that comes out of supporting NIH and similar kinds of institutes, how do you argue against that? So, I think that even if we might expect a tough time for the next year or two, I’m not really worried about the future of research support in this country.”

At the same event, Provost Daniel Linzer also emphasized the importance of federal research funding to global economic growth and research discovery, but he acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the prospects for continued federal funding in the current climate.

Still, Linzer said that “when local, state and federal governments want to see economic growth, that comes from ideas in research universities that turn into startup companies, that turn into successful new products that existing companies pick up and benefit from. And that adds jobs, it adds to the health of our community, it adds to our ability to provide energy, it adds to our national security. 

“If you don’t invest in the research, those benefits are going to disappear,” Linzer observed. “At the end of the day, even if the federal government wants to remake itself, it has to question what the federal budget investment is going to do to advance the nation. There is no bigger payoff than to invest in university-based research. It doesn’t make sense to me to cut that."

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