WASHINGTON, D.C. – While coronavirus-related research is now in overdrive, most other research has been slowed down or stopped altogether due to pandemic-induced closures of campuses and laboratories. Now, tens of thousands of graduate students, postdocs, principal investigators and other technical support staff are at risk of losing their employment and their work without federal relief. Additionally, with this research stopped, America may lose the benefits that come with new technologies and scientific insights.
On Wednesday, U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Fred Upton (R-MI), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation to authorize billions in funding to U.S. researchers who have been impacted by the pandemic.
“These researchers are essential to our nation’s public health, national security, economic growth and international competitiveness,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “Preserving our scientific infrastructure and protecting our innovation pipeline will help ensure U.S. leadership in the world and help us better respond to future pandemics.”
The Research Investment to Secure the Economy (RISE) Act authorizes approximately $26 billion in emergency relief for federal science agencies – such as the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation and others – to award to research universities, independent institutions, and national laboratories to continue working on federally-funded research projects.
This funding could, among other things, enable graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and Principal Investigators to complete work that was disrupted by COVID-19, or extend the training or employment of researchers on an existing research project for up to two years because of the disruption of the job market.
The RISE Act would also allow certain federal agencies to award research grants and cooperative agreements to colleges or universities to conduct research on the behavioral, social or economic effects of COVID-19 and the responses to the disease, as well as the effectiveness of such responses.
Not only would the funding seek to improve U.S. research competitiveness and pandemic preparedness, but it would also provide critical support to the nation’s economy. According to IRS data, American universities used research funds to pay more than 560,000 people on campuses across the country in fiscal year 2018-2019. The RISE Act will help ensure that this important sector of the economy continues to thrive even after the pandemic subsides.
The legislation comes just two months after DeGette and Upton led 180 Members of Congress in sending a letter to House leadership urging them to support the American research enterprise and provide it with the additional funding it now desperately needs. A copy of that letter is available here.
A copy of the legislation is available here.