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Super Committee Fail Jeopardizes Science Research

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STEM CELL FUNDING
AP

Postdoctoral researchers at the University of California, myself included, understand the importance of federally funded research. Investment in science by the federal government, through agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) has enabled us to do amazing things, from dramatic improvements in health to advancing clean energy technology and beyond. Since 1990, nearly one in five FDA-approved medical advances -- including 40 new cancer drugs -- were invented in a federally funded lab.

Driven by strong public support, the United States' commitment to breakthrough research has been a beacon in the scientific world. If you wanted to do something groundbreaking, you could do it in the U.S. -- and that's why so many of us were drawn to science and why so many of my international colleagues come to this country to work and live. That's also why so many job-creating companies, from Google to Genentech, can trace their DNA back to U.S.-funded basic science with researchers from across the globe.

In spite of these great benefits, something now threatens the long-standing U.S. commitment to basic science research and the breakthroughs it has enabled. Ironically, the U.S. Congress itself stands poised to undermine this cornerstone of American economic competitiveness.

The congressional super committee has failed to cut a deal, so automatic funding cuts are poised to take place in 2013. Scientific research would be slashed by 9 percent or more. This could so limit funding that scientific grant acceptance rates could plummet to the single digits. In real terms, this will slow the pace of medical and technological breakthroughs and increase the likelihood that the next job-generating discovery languishes without financial backing.

As the union representing postdoctoral researchers at the University of California, UAW Local 5810 is fighting these cuts. Our members see firsthand what many politicians don't know or have forgotten -- that scientific research is an economic engine that has created hundreds of thousands of jobs here in the United States. In 2010, health research alone created nearly half a million jobs in all 50 states.

We understand that times are tough and that everyone is being asked to do more with less. But every dollar allocated to the University of California generates 14 dollars for California's economy. Most of us aren't economic experts, but if someone offered you a 1,400 percent return on your money, wouldn't you take it? It is nearly impossible to find an economic investment that beats federal funding of scientific research.

If these cuts take place, we won't just fall behind in our own careers; many jobs and the benefits of promising research will be lost. UAW Local 5810 looks forward to working with the University, other stakeholders and the public to fend off cuts to -- and then increase -- funding for scientific research. Without strong federal funding, life-saving medical and technological breakthroughs -- like the next 40 new cancer drugs -- might not see the light of day.

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