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Research funding drops in past year

By Katherine Shim

Research funding for the 1991 fiscal year is less than was originally expected, said James J. Culliton, vice president for financial operations.

Institute research funding for fiscal year 1991 increased 2.0 percent over 1990, three percentage points below the expected increase of five percent, Culliton said.

In 1990, funding increased by 5.5 percent over the previous year, and in 1989, research funding increased 4.3 percent over 1988.

The smaller-than-expected increase may have been caused by the current slump in the economy, but Culliton refused to speculate on specific causes of the leveling off of funding, citing

the erratic nature of research funding.

"The volume of [research] funding is not growing as much as we had originally predicted. . . . However, it is true that research funding does fluctuate quite a bit," said Culliton. "Though research funding has never decreased from year to year, it has at times increased just barely for no apparent reason," he added.

"During the Gramm-Rudman budget period, we had expected virtually no increase in [research] funding. Instead, funding increased quite substantially," Culliton said.

The Financial Operations Office makes projections on expected research funding growth by consultations with the Office of Financial Planning and Management, the Office of the Comptroller, and individual departments who seek funding, Culliton said.

For the next four years, the Financial Operations Office predicts funding to increase by 3.0 percent in 1991, 3.0 percent in 1992, 2.7 percent in 1993 and 4.0 percent in 1994. These modest projections may have been influenced by the unexpectedly low 2.0 percent increase in funding over the 1991 fiscal year, said David J. Litster, acting associate provost and vice president of research.

The modest increase in funding is to have no affect on the ability of undergraduates to obtain Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program funding, Culliton said.

"Even if funding is declining, there is great concern for the unique educational experience

of the UROP program. UROP funding will be in no way affected," Culliton said.

Researchers opt for UROPers

over graduate students

Stanley C. Luckhardt, principal research scientist of the Plasma Fusion Center, said that due to cuts in research funding over the past few years, professors opted to employ UROP students over graduate and post-doctoral fellows.

Research overhead costs are waived by the UROP office for undergraduate students but must be paid when graduate and post-doctoral students are employed.

"In my own lab," Luckhardt said, "we were projected to hire two post-doctoral students and two graduate students. Because of cuts in our research funding, we had to eliminate those positions, delay our project for a year, and take more advantage of the UROP program."