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When elected state and national officials take office this January, researchers at Penn may need to ask themselves: “Got funds?”

With two Penn alumni — Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter — slated to leave office, there is growing concern among administrators over the possible loss of federal and statewide funds for research.

According to Jeffrey Cooper, Vice President of the Office of Government and Community Affairs, “Specter is a champion of federal funding for basic scientific research.”

In an e-mail, Cooper wrote the OGCA is thankful for Specter’s “strong advocacy for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies that support competitively funded research grants.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Penn has received $189,645,255 in NIH grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the stimulus bill.

In addition, Penn has received $14,303,446 in ARR-funded National Science Foundation awards.

Bill Andresen, Penn’s associate vice president of federal affairs, said Specter’s absence will “leave a void in Congress when it comes to being an effective advocate for basic biomedical research.”

Specter “was really single-handedly responsible for getting 10 billion dollars included in the stimulus bill for the NIH, and every year fought for increases in NIH funding,” Andresen said.

Pennsylvania’s other senator, Bob Casey Jr., has “indicated that he has an interest in becoming a champion for increases in NIH funding,” Andresen said. However, “although there are other people who we hope will step into [Specter’s] shoes, they are very big shoes,” he said.

Dawn Deitch, director of the OGCA, highlighted the vow in the Republican Party’s Pledge to America to cut all discretionary nondefense spending to 2008 levels. According to her, such a plan would cut $2.9 billion, or 9 percent, of NIH research money, while the NSF would lose more than $1 billion, or almost 19 percent, of its budget.

There is also concern on a statewide level as Republicans take control of the state’s governorship and its House of Representatives. “The deficit is real and the revenue shortages are real, and that will affect their decisions even if they’re supporters of higher-ed research,” Deitch said.

However, “the good news is Penn is one of the largest employers in the state,” according to Deitch. She added that Penn has “roles beyond our academic mission that make it productive to work with our state government.”

According to Cooper, Rendell “has done a tremendous amount of work to help Pennsylvanians understand the contributions of our School of Veterinary Medicine to Pennsylvania’s substantial agriculture sector.”

“This year, even in this difficult environment, Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine received 35 million dollars of public money from the state,” Deitch said.

She emphasized the statewide change in party isn’t OGCA’s concern. Instead, she highlighted “the new challenges in informing new people who aren’t necessarily plugged into the roles of Penn the way Rendell was.”

“We’ll just be helping inform the new players to bring them up to that level of understanding, which is kind of a fun thing to do,” Deitch said. “We like it.”

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