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home : letters : letters July 24, 2017

5/9/2013 10:40:00 AM
Unintended consequences

To the editor:

I have decided to think of it as unintended consequences. Washington legislators are concerned about the financial debt that our deficit spending will have on our collective grandchildren. So they sought to reduce federal spending any way they could. Surely, the reasoning must go, this HAS to benefit future generations. But will it? Take the "sequester": Our infrastructure is crumbling (or falling down, as in the I-35 bridge), children are shut out of Head Start (which has enormous positive impacts on future self sufficiency), cancer patients are turned away from clinics due to cuts in medical care reimbursements, and there are major cuts to federal support for scientific research.

In the interest of total disclosure, I run a research program that is supported by the National Institutes of Health, so this cuts close to home for me. This also allows me to have a front row seat on the unintended consequences of the sequester on scientific research. The National Institutes of Health, which is the major funder of biomedical research, is cutting funding for projects that have already ranked in the very top for scientific merit in order to continue to fund new and important projects. The unintended consequence: highly meritorious projects will probably face the loss of a scientist working on the project (thus adding to the ranks of the unemployed).

The National Science Foundation, which funds applied research that will lead to new technology like Silicone Valley, is funding 1,000 fewer projects this year. While other countries are enlarging their basic science funding, you have to wonder where the next generation of scientists will migrate. Which other country will be the home of the next generation Silicone Valley and benefit from being the new world leader in technology? This is just one of the unintended consequences of underfunding basic science research.

There were lengthy airport delays due to sequester. As the law makers in Washington faced going home, they acted with remarkable (dare I say historic?) speed to re-fund the affected agency. This was one unintended consequence that they felt the urgent need to alleviate. Is anyone surprised?

Merry Jo Velasquez

Cannon Falls Township

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