Federal Science Funding Cuts Affect MIT Students

Dr. Natalie Lundsteen, Assistant Director for Graduate Student Career Services, GECD

The national conversation about federal science funding advocacy is now happening at MIT. Student group Stand With Science partnered with GECD in early May for a panel presentation on the effects of federal budget sequestration on science research at MIT, featuring remarks and discussion amongst Maria Zuber, MIT’s Vice President for Research, Bill Bonvillian, Director of the MIT Washington Office, and Samuel Brinton, graduate student and executive director of Stand With Science. The event, titled The Sequester: The Future of Science Funding and its Impact on MIT - Students, Faculty, Postdocs, and Research happened on Monday May 6, 2013.  The key questions addressed were:

  • How is the sequester likely to impact universities?The Sequester: The future of science funding and its impact on MIT

  • How is a reduction in federal science funding likely to impact grants to faculty and support for graduate students and postdocs?

  • What is MIT considering to address these problems and affected MIT researchers?

With over 70% of MIT’s research volume dependent upon federal sources, the federal budget sequester will certainly significantly impact the Institute.  In terms of how this will affect students, Dr. Zuber said, “the effects…might not be seen a week or even a year from now, but ten years from now they will be greatly seen.”  MIT will see a decrease in research volume of about 3 to 4 percent across campus, which will have a measurable future effect on research students, postdocs, and costs.

The May event was well-attended by a mix of students, postdocs and faculty/staff, with remarks from Mr. Bonvillian, Dr. Zuber, and Mr. Brinton followed by dialogue with the audience. The impetus for bringing together the participants and addressing the topic came primarily from Course 22 Master’s student Sam Brinton. Sam is president of the leadership of MIT’s Science Policy Initiative, a student-led organization working to foster civic engagement and policy awareness among scientists and engineers at MIT. Sam is also one of the founders of Stand With Science, a national collective of concerned graduate students in science and engineering advocating for societal investment in innovation.