May 05, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) and 32 of his Senate colleagues are making a bipartisan push to support America’s entire scientific research community during the coronavirus pandemic. Coronavirus-related research is currently a top federal government priority, but most other research has slowed or stopped due to closures of campuses and laboratories. The people who comprise the research workforce – graduate students, postdocs, principal investigators, and technical support staff – face financial and other hardships from the disruption of their research activities that fund them, not to mention the absolute halting of their valuable scientific pursuits. The Senators are calling for $26 billion in emergency relief funding for the research community in the next coronavirus relief package.
“Research universities, academic medical centers, and national labs are major employers in all 50 states, and protecting the research workforce is critical to state economies,” write the Senators in their letter to Senate leadership. “Congress must act to preserve our current scientific workforce and ensure that the U.S. is prepared to continue our global scientific leadership once this crisis ends.”
“Maine’s public universities have been on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19 and its economic fallout,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, president of the University of Maine, the only public research university in the state and a land, sea, and space grant institution. “While this disease has created great uncertainty for us all, we know for sure that the research and development at our nation’s universities and laboratories is more important than ever not only in combating the coronavirus and enabling us to manage future public health outbreaks but inspiring the innovations necessary to rebuild our economy. The investments proposed by Senator King and his colleagues will restore our research enterprise more quickly – ensuring science doesn't slow down at the time when it is needed most."
In their letter, the Senators specifically call for funding in the next relief package to:
In addition to Senator King, the letter is signed by Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
This effort has been endorsed by the Association of American Universities (AAU), American Council on Education (ACE), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), Association of American Medical Colleges, Union of Concerned Scientists, ACT for NIH, Alzheimer's Association, American Association for Cancer Research, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), American Geophysical Union, American Lung Association, American Mathematical Society, American Meteorological Society, American Chemical Society, American Physical Society, American Physiological Society, American Society for Cell Biology, American Society for Microbiology, Association of Independent Research Institutes, Autism Speaks, Coalition for the Life Sciences, EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases, Friends of Cancer Research, Geological Society of America , JDRF, Research!America, Society for Neuroscience, and dozens more.
The full letter can be read below or downloaded HERE.
Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer,
As Congress continues to work on economic stimulus legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we ask that you address the challenges that U.S. scientific research workforce faces during this crisis. Although COVID-19-related research is now in overdrive, most other research has slowed or stopped due to closures of campuses and laboratories. We are deeply concerned that the people who comprise the research workforce — graduate students, postdocs, principal investigators, and technical support staff — face financial and other hardships from the cessation of their research activities. We therefore request funding in the next stimulus package that addresses their needs.
In the current environment, researchers face myriad problems. Many are unable to make progress on their grants. Researchers who receive federal-grant funding may continue to receive their salaries even though their research has stopped, but many need supplemental funding to support additional salary and lab supplies as they ramp up work again and for the completion of their initial grant work. Others have incurred significant costs for shutting down their labs, donating the personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline healthcare workers, and cancelling planned experiments. Many core research facilities — typically funded by user fees — sit idle. Congress must act to preserve our current scientific workforce and ensure that the U.S. is prepared to continue our global scientific leadership once this crisis ends.
We strongly support the inclusion of $26 billion in funding in the fourth stimulus package to:
· Cover supplements for research grants and contracts (i.e., cost extensions) caused by the pandemic, including additional salary support and/or research related ramp-up costs;
· Provide emergency relief to sustain research support personnel and base operating costs for core research facilities and user-funded research services until such time as facilities reopen and research activities return to pre-pandemic activity levels; and
· Fund additional graduate student and postdoc fellowships, traineeships, and research assistantships for up to two years. Graduate students who could not complete their degrees due to the pandemic should be given priority for graduate fellowships and other forms of support so they can complete their research and degrees.
Supporting the men and women of the U.S. scientific and medical research community will help stimulate the U.S economy in the near term by keeping these workers employed. Research universities, academic medical centers, and national labs are major employers in all 50 states, and protecting the research workforce is critical to state economies. In the long term, these researchers are essential to protecting our nation’s public health, national security, economic growth, and international competitiveness. Preserving our scientific infrastructure will help protect our innovation pipeline and ensure U.S. leadership in the world.
We appreciate your leadership as Congress continues to respond to the economic fallout from this pandemic. Thank you for your attention to this request.