Faculty and students involved with environmental research at Penn may soon have to adapt to reduced funding.
Agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Agriculture provide federal funding to universities for a range of research. Trump’s proposed budget will cut funding for the EPA by 31 percent, hurting the amount of environmental research that Penn can conduct, Vice Provost for Research Dawn Bonnell said.
The EPA has provided $1.2 million for research to the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Design and the Wharton School, while the Department of Energy provides approximately $6 million annually to Penn. The National Science Foundation granted Penn approximately $46 million last year, some of which went toward environmental and climate change research, Bonnell said.
Bonnell added that research in climate change would especially be “targeted for cuts” given that the “proposed budget shows the priorities of the [Trump] administration.”
She also noted that less research would be detrimental to graduate students studying topics related to environmental studies.
“If the amount of federally funded research goes down, then there would potentially be fewer graduate students or postdoctoral associates supported to do research,” Bonnell said.
Bonnell and other administrators are working with the Association of American Universities and other nonpartisan advocacy groups to voice concerns over the impact of these budget choices.
Penn is also working with peer institutions to be “making cases [on behalf of research] at the national level,” she said.
Alain Plante, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, said he has received a number of federal grants, including one currently from the National Science Foundation. While he is concerned “as a citizen and a scientist” about the proposed budget, he is not too concerned about his current research, he said.
“We’re already at a point where my chance for getting a grant funded by the NSF is around only 8 percent,” Plante said. “If it goes from eight down to six, am I worried? Not really. It’s already tough enough.”
However, Plante added that the decreased funding for research will force academics to be more strategic about their research proposal topics in the future. If the research topic is not relevant to a discussion in today’s society, it will be increasingly difficult to receive funding, he said.
Plante said this can be alleviated by re-training researchers and managing the number of scientists going into research. He noted that Ph.D. students have already been going into a more diverse set of jobs post-graduation — this will more important as the science community adapts to changes in funding.
“The cuts to all these organizations are very worrying,” said College freshman Julia Lesko, who is considering a double major in business economics and public policy, and environmental science. “They do important things for us, and that’s why they were established.”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.