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Monday, July 19, 2010

UT Administration Impugned in Chronicle Article on Earmarks

Of interest:

Chronicle of Higher Education


Anonymous said...

Congressional Earmarks are an effective means of funding university-based research and supporting the existing faculty research. Additionally, earmarks enable faculty to develop new (usually related) projects and enhance/strengthen existing academic programs and support their students. Indeed, the monies support and enhance graduate education in ways that more competitive programs do not and cannot (think tuition reimbursement as many programs have insufficient budget resources to assist with tuition). The key is that earmarks have to meaningfully enhance and augment the strengths of an institution and/or reflect the scale/scope/potential of existing activities. This is a non-issue as earmarks assist all academic units in direct and indirect ways. Indeed, I would guess that a great deal of discretionary budget resources that are made available to depts to assist/supplement with extra-ordinary travel, hosting conferences, end of year purchases, and so on are likely derived from F&A cost recovery. I would hope that this forum keep its eye on the ball--which is a failed leader (aka Jacobs).

Concerned Alum

Anonymous said...

Sorry, earmarks are pork. By definition this stuff is waste. Real research gets funded by the NSF and NIH.

Just because Marcy has made herself the heiress of John Murtha and the money is being laundered through UT does not make it magically productive. Think of the Murtha related corruption. Where is this loot going after it gets through UT's and its patrons' hands? If you think it circulates around Toledo providing jobs...very naive.

Yr humble & obt servt

John Dickinson.

Anonymous said...

The whole question about whether UT should or should not receive earmarks is fraught with perils.

Please keep in mind that earmarks are tax dollars. If there are earmarks, then there necessarily will have to be taxes or debt or both! Economists are concerned that the debt burden of the United States has grown too large. The debt of a country, according a recent article in the Economist Magazine is a Ponzi scheme based on the growth of the population and its output of the country. In the United States, the debt has now grown much faster than either the population or the national output and this has Economists very worried.

Similarly, increased taxes are a disincentive to personal and corporate wealth creation. President's Reagan's success is that he was able to encourage business investment by lower the tax rates in the United States. But that is clearly not possible considering the expenditures that the United States is making at this time. Therefore, Congress was entirely correct in trying to limit earmarks in the budgeting process as earmarks contributed to the national debt.

Have earmarks helped UT? Definitely yes in a short term perspective. Equipment was bought, laboratories built and students funded. But this is a short sighted outlook on the problem.

Earmarks were needed because UT's reputation as a research university limited its effectiveness in the competitive granting process. Furthermore, the agencies that were committed by Congress to provide the earmark dollars to UT were not always happy to do so nor were they necessarily happy with the results that they received for the moneys provided. If the agency is not happy with the results of this process, then it certainly will not be willing to consider UT a viable research facility when making decisions when the competitive proposals are considered. The question about whether earmarks help UT's reputation is clearly not answered favorably amongst either peer institutions or amongst the funding agencies.

In addition, when UT uses earmark money to bring in research faculty and build facilities and the earmarks do not continue, then UT has to provide budget from its operating budget to provide salaries and perform the maintenance and upkeep that the new equipment and laboratories need. In the long term, this costs the future students of UT who provide the greatest part of the operating budget through their tuition dollars.

Earmarks not necessarily good for UT and they definitely are not good for our nation. Too many tax dollars have been wasted pursuing pet projects when such projects could withstand the scrutiny of peer review. And I cannot regard the recent publications regarding skirting earmark rules as being good press for UT.

But I do agree with the first commenter: our "eye on the ball" should be inability of the Jacob's Administration to successfully lead the University of Toledo.

Anonymous said...

The issue of earmarks is a political concern and not an academic one. To swear off earmarks would be to reduce the competitiveness of UT. Indeed, earmarks are used to attract/retain the specific faculty who will obtain NSF and NIH grants in the future, as well as build infrastructure and capacity that are unlikely to be funded by a single agency through the competitive process (the monies are too small). The issue of others declining various partnerships is likely the result of fit and/or a lack of capacity (i.e., fully engaged researchers). Based on the article, the specific projects outlined appear to be consistent with the strategic direction of the university (i.e., alternative energy). Additionally, these emerging partnerships are analogous to SBIR awards. While the paper sees the new policy as creating a loop hole, the reality is that it has expanded opportunities for universities. With respect to the competitive v. non-competitive nature of earmarks, I know of very few active researchers who do not need bridge funding between grants and/or are automatically renewed. Indeed, the fund rates (and my experience as a reviewer and multiple grantee) at NSF strongly suggests a great deal of COMPETITIVE research goes unfunded. I have no concerns with attempts by UT and/or members of congress to attract resources to the region. Indeed, a failure to attract additional resources would be highly problematic.

Concerned Alum

sir lawrence said...

some earmarks are good, some are silly. the problem is that the judgment of good or bad is purely political and always tied to some OTHER totally unrelated legislation. for example, i think earmarks for alternative energy research is ultimately good for the nation- but the funding should be peer reviewed and passed as an independent bill. that will never happen, because politicians and parties today are much more interested in re-election than in saving the nation and preserving an educated democracy. so, i think marcy does what she can.

Anonymous said...

My concern is that our sleazy administrators will put these earmarks to questionable uses--benefiting themselves and their buddies--while the College is starved.

Anonymous said...

The real question to be asked is this:

Could the University of Toledo attract funding for alternative energy if they had to compete with other universities and their proposals were peer reviewed?

If they can, why haven’t they done so?

If the University of Toledo cannot attract funding through a competitive process, why should their proposals be provided with federal tax dollars?

Did you ever think that if earmarks did not exist, the budget for granting agencies might be larger for competitive research if the research was needed? I remember back in the 80’s when I had to channel $25 million to a state university from my budget as a laboratory director for computational facilities that clearly did not support my unit’s mission in order to meet the whims of a powerful Senator. My year to year budget did not change much but I clearly had less funding to support the competitive projects we were set up to support and less funding to investigate the problems that we had responsibility to solve.
I too am a multi-NSF grantee; I too am a regular NSF Panel Member and Reviewer; I also have received competitive funding from other agencies and have recognition awards from those agencies for the research that I performed on their behalf. Earmarks are destructive to fostering high quality research by allowing funds to be diverted to projects with relatively low worth and low probability of producing results that are needed or will be used in the future. The SCI provides a data point to support this: the difference in SCI numbers between projects that were peer reviewed and earmark projects is striking. The easiest way to see this is to take papers with very high citation ratings and to trace them back to their funding source. Many of these papers will give you acknowledgements which make the process easier.
The concept that you will attract top quality researchers by having earmarks is utterly false. There are many reasons why people chose to work where they work including location, position availability, potential for advancement and salary.
The graduates of the top quality programs and the best researchers know where to look if they want to continue their careers as researchers and it is not at a university which is primarily supported by earmarks. The people that earmarks attract are the “want to be’s”. They could not get funding on their own but they are willing to spend you money. It may be possible to find someone who because of other factors that is also a high quality researcher. I will guarantee you: it will be these other factors that will have attracted the individual, not the earmark.

Anonymous said...

UT's solar efforts have gotten all sorta of grants from the NSF, Depts of Energy and DoE, the EDA and other places.

Also, no one seems to have mentioned that these are proposed earmarks and that nothing has been granted. You're talking about it like all these are a done deal.

Also, I'm disappointed to see people attacking our colleagues in physics simply because the dislike Jacobs. I think it's possible to be against Jacobs without having to accuse fellow faculty of poor research, especially when it seems obvious they do very well getting competitive grants.

Anonymous said...

I am not attacking my colleagues in Physics, Engineering or Medicine. But I am trying to tell the story honestly rather than from the hype that passes for facts on this campus. I am certain that there may be some good researchers in these areas. But earmarks are not the way to doing good research for variety of reasons that I presented above.

Anonymous said...

To Anon at 10:23

The physics "faculty" in question are only faculty in name. They are more concerned with spining their research off into their own companies than they are teaching, advising, serving the UT community, or saving the world.

They don't give a damn about the College or the University.

It is about time we stop walking on egg shells and tell it the way it is.


Anonymous said...

Read this:

Undoubtedly they will say, "You MUST PAY TO KEEP GOOD PEOPLE!"

What's going on at UT is part of a nation-wide epidemic of good-old-boy clubs washing each other's hands and scratching each other's back. Whether in private corporations or public or quasi-public institutions it is obvious that he who controls the gold makes the rules and invariably they make those rules out to mean they are worth more and more.

Wish someone would look into connecting all the dots between Ohio boards of trustees, presidents, administrators, and businesses who have been milking the state's teets dry for their own benefit.

Anonymous said...

Wait, I thought this was a unique problem to UT...