Autism Research and Money

From the American Association of Universities:
H.R. 1, the FY11 continuing resolution introduced last week in the House, […] would truly harm this nation’s capacity for innovation by slashing research spending for nearly every agency that sponsors scientific research. This is exactly the wrong approach to deficit reduction, and it is our hope that the Senate, the President, and ultimately the House will agree on deficit reduction measures that enhance, not stifle, innovation and long-term economic growth.
We are concerned that the President’s proposal to eliminate the in-school interest subsidy on loans to graduate students as a means of covering some of the costs of the Pell program may discourage American students from attending graduate school at a time when the nation needs to encourage its own best talent. We look forward to working with the Administration and with Congress to mitigate any negative impact on these students.
It is likely I am leaving autism research behind, as the university job market is in a continuing slump. One potential outcome is a career in major (Fortune 100) corporate management. I'm sure someone will take that as proof of my evil greed. The reality is, however, there simply aren't many research posts. In case you've missed the obvious: states are broke, and states fund most universities in the United States.

Doctors also have to make the career choices that are logical. I know several doctors leaving non-profit or university posts for private practice — away from research and education. That's not some evil plot to cover-up anything. They need jobs to pay student loans (something to which I relate too well). They aren't leaving for any diabolical reasons or to avoid some research agenda. These doctors love medicine, like their patients, and want to earn a living.

Research funding is drying up from states, federal agencies, and corporations. There's no devious plot involved. Money is tight. No researcher I know cares more about money than ethics — it is simply not possible to do any research.

Most university research, about 65%, is federally funded. Historically speaking:
About 10 percent of federal funding goes to social research, 20 percent to engineering and technology, 40 percent to medical schools and the remaining to various programs at universities.
The money is gone. We are broke. University researchers will be arguing over an ever-shrinking pie for the next decade or longer — and it was already shrinking since about 2007. This must affect autism research, just as it will affect everything except some energy and technology research favored by the current White House administration and some congressional leaders.

Privately funded and non-profit research cannot match the missing federal dollars. It's just not possible to offset billions of funding that will be slashed. And I don't have a good alternative. State and federal spending now exceeds $7 trillion annually (about half of government spending is federal at $3.6 trillion, and half is state / local). Total debt, state and federal, is $18 trillion for fiscal year 2012. All defense spending doesn't even total $1 trillion — and 60 percent of defense spending is on salaries and pensions (which we cannot and should not cut).

States spend the majority of their budgets on education and health care. That means school spending, including university research budgets will be slashed more and more each year until there is a financial recovery. I'm not sure there will a strong enough recovery to offset planned research cuts.

What the current mess means for autism researchers is clear: doing less with less. Yes, bad timing. No, I don't have a solution.


  1. Don't feel bad if you have to take a corporate position. You gotta do what you gotta do. Making a living is important, to your family and your self-esteem.

  2. It is a shame our leaders wasted so much money over the last 50 years. Now, things like NASA and medical research get cut to keep paying for some pretty useless (low-return) projects some congress critter likes in his or her district.

    But, that's the reality of gov't. Minnesota's new governor is suggesting raising taxes to the highest levels in the entire U.S. while also complaining that too many people are leaving. Well, I might be one of those people leaving for another state.

    At the same time, he wants to build two new sports stadiums. So, $155 million for a basketball arena or spend on education. Yeah, smart spending of tax money continues.


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