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KU delegation signs on to efforts to increase federal research funding

Kansas' congressional delegation has lent its support to efforts to halt declining federal research funding. Several federal lawmakers have signed letters urging increases to the research budgets of the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Reps. Dennis Moore and Nancy Boyda have signed letters to the House and Senate appropriations committees urging the increased funding, and Sen. Pat Roberts has signed on as well. Rep. Jerry Moran signed the letter urging increased funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Todd Tiahrt are members of the appropriation committees the letters were sent to, and therefore did not sign the letters, but have shown support for the funding increase request, said Keith Yehle, KU's director of federal relations.

"For a research university, having half of our delegation show support for such requests is very important to demonstrating the importance of our research mission and the educational benefits that come from it," Yehle said.

In the past several years, research funding for organizations such as the National Science Foundation has been flat, and in some cases, has declined. Yehle stressed the letters are not a guarantee funding will be increased, but the bipartisan collection of lawmakers showing support is an encouraging sign. The NIH letter contains 179 signatures from the U.S. House of Representatives. Sixty-five senators signed the budget support letter for the Department of Energy.

The letter to the House Appropriations Committee requests $6.85 billion in funding for National Science Foundation for fiscal year 2009, or an increase of 13 percent from the previous year. The letter to the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee requests $4.7 billion for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, an increase of nearly $750 million from the previous year. The Department of Energy funds the America COMPETES Act, which provides funding to ensure the United States remains a world leader in science.

The National Endowment of the Humanities budget has been especially hard-hit in the past decade. The letter requests additional funding of $30 million, which would return the agency's budget to its 1994 level of $177 million.

Congress is working on a budget blueprint, which likely will be passed later this spring, but Yehle said he doesn't expect the budget process to be completed before March 2009, even though fiscal year 2009 begins Oct. 1.

"The university will continue to be engaged in this process," Yehle said. "Bottom line, more funding for these agencies would mean more money for competitive research grants."

KU has collaborated with the Association of American Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges in gathering support for the funding measures.

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