By Doris K. Dahl
Since its inception 18 months ago, The Science Coalition has worked to secure continued federal support of university-sponsored science research.
Comprising industrial leaders, companies, associations and universities from across the country, including the UI, the coalition has established itself in the science community and as an important resource for members of Congress, the Clinton administration and the news media.
Rick Schoell, director for federal relations at the UI, stressed the importance of the activities of the coalition. "It is critical to make sure that key federal policy-makers realize how important federal support of research is to our future," Schoell said.
Representatives of the coalition met with key Democratic and Republican senators in two separate issue forums. The attendees -- including Jiri Jonas, director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, and Joe Lyding, professor of electrical and computer engineering -- discussed the importance of research to industry and health care, showing that research breakthroughs not only save lives or improve the quality of life, but also often translate into long-term savings in industry and health care.
Graduate students also attended some of the meetings, in part to show that education and research can not be separated. "Usually the best learning experiences [of a graduate student] are in the lab -- labs which are sponsored by federal dollars," Schoell said.
Other activities of the coalition:
-- Secured 89 congressional signatures on a letter on behalf of certain funding for the National Science Foundation.
-- Mobilized advocates to call and write in support of the congressional-executive branch agreement on an appropriations bill that ultimately was enacted and provided increased support for research conducted at NSF, NASA and other unfunded agencies compared with the levels contained in the various FY96 continuing resolutions.
-- Requested language in the FY97 House Budge Resolution highlighting scientific research as a priority. Recent budget figures also reflect continuing pressure on university-based research, so additional meetings were organized.
-- Sent a letter signed by 21 CEOs in support of university-based research to President Clinton.
-- Solicited joint letters in support of university-based research from 25 governors and more than 60 Nobel Laureates.
-- Are planning state and regional conferences designed to highlight the impact of projected federal research budget cuts in those locations.
-- Provided a "grassroots organizing kit" to assist coalition members in contacting their legislators.
"As the legislative process moves forward," Schoell said, "the Science Coalition will continue to work to sustain the federal investment in science and engineering research. FY 97 looks promising for continued federal support for research, but we remain concerned for the years beyond.
The projected decline in the discretionary budget will increase pressure to cut science funding in the future, making the activities of the Science Coalition more important than ever.