The automatic federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, that began last March have forced universities to cut back on research-related personnel, delay projects and admit fewer graduate students, according to a survey of 74 public and private research institutions. Eighty-one percent of survey respondents said sequestration, which cut the number of new federal research grants and reduced funding for many existing grants, had “immediate, detrimental effects on research activities and output on their campuses.”
The survey also reported that more than half of the 74 universities said that the decrease in new federal grants—and the reduced dollar value of some existing grants—had negatively affected research-related positions. These institutions reduced staff, student and postdoctoral fellow positions, and 16% reported that they had laid off permanent staff.
The survey was conducted in October and designed to measure the impact of the first eight months of sequestration on research universities. Funded by the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Science Coalition, the survey was distributed to 171 research universities. It had a response rate of 43% and an error rate of +/- 10%.
According to the survey, 23% of respondents reported they had admitted fewer graduate students because of sequestration, and 30% reported that the budget cuts led them to reduce research opportunities for undergraduate students.
The sequester required automatic, across-the-board budget cuts of 5%, including major research funders like the National Institutes of Health, although some groups, such as the National Science Foundation, were spared cuts at the last minute by Congress.