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Davis, California

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Despite budget cuts, UC Davis researchers expect continued funding

UC Davis faculty and researchers can breathe a sigh of relief, as budget cuts will not be sapping funds for research.

According to the United States Government Accountability Office, since Aug. 28, California has disbursed $3.7 billion in stimulus money to local education. $268 million has gone to the University of California.

The UCD Office of Research projected that research dollars topped $622 million during the fiscal year of 2008-09. This infusion of funds has helped pay for many of the research projects conducted on campus.

Allocations for projects include:

-$98,000 to study how lead harms nerve cells during brain development

-$548,000 for tools able to predict outbreaks of West Nile virus

-$430,000 for research and teaching on micro-electromechanical systems

-$780,000 for research on building foundations that can withstand earthquakes

-$4.9 million for new, fuel-efficient natural-gas buses

Much of the stimulus funding has come from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NIH has been given $10.4 billion and the NSF $3 billion for research in health and science-related research.

Barry Klein, vice chancellor for research and professor of physics at UC Davis, said that the school has garnered over $70 million in research funds and expects the number to grow.

“We are over $70 million and I am very certain we’ll have well over $100 million dollars before the smoke clears,” Klein said. “We have a lot of competitive grants that are outstanding that I know did very well in review. I think over the next weeks and months we’ll get a lot of good news.”

Among the competitive grants in review are those for new facilities. Peter Schwartz, assistant director of capital program management in the Office of Resource Management and Planning, has been working to advance several multimillion-dollar construction projects, according to an article by the UC Davis News Service.

One of ORMP’s projects is a $6 million request for chemical biology and bio-analytical facilities in the chemistry building and a $15 million upgrade and expansion of the physics department.

Although stimulus funds have primarily benefited science and medical research, Klein emphasized that the humanities and social sciences have not been left out. For instance 1 to 2 percent of the total campus award has gone to humanities faculty.

He stresses that these divisions comprise a small piece because they are less costly to fund. These disciplines do not require expensive equipment or facilities, but that does not diminish their importance.

“It’s very important to emphasize that everything isn’t just money, it’s the value of what’s done,” Klein said.

The effect of stimulus funding is also limited by its nature. Designed to spur economic growth in two years, these extra dollars may dry up. In an email interview, Mary Delany, department chair for animal sciences and professor of developmental genetics, said while the money has funded new projects and extended existing funding, it is likely a short-term situation.

Facing the possibility of having no stimulus funds in the future, Klein said that the positive results from current research would help UC Davis compete for regular grants.

Yet the outlook remains bright. Last year UC Davis received over $600 million in research funds and this year it expects to gain more.

“Last year we had over $622 million dollars of research funding, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we topped $700 million this year thanks to stimulus funds,” Klein said.

LESLIE TSAN can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


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