Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-New Hartford), chair of the House Science Committee, wrapped up the “Destination Discovery: Unleashing Your Research Potential” symposium March 7, describing it as “exactly the kind of thing we need to be doing to ensure the future of New York state.”
The BU symposium brought close to 300 researchers, scholars, community and industry representatives, and federal and state agency officials together at Binghamton University for two days–March 6 and 7–to discuss unleashing the research potential on New York college campuses.
Calling on campuses, both public and private, to work with the state and federal governments, he said the most important players are the colleges themselves. “You’ve got the talent, the know-how and the responsibility,” he said. “Research funding is not a simple game of ‘who has the most money wins.’ A successful strategy requires a lot of planning.
“You need a balanced strategy in which not all schools take the same approach and in which they’re not all tied narrowly to the same industrial agenda,” he added. “The balance must be constantly recalibrated.”
Boehlert also cautioned against pursuing research at the expense of education. “It’s vitally important to keep young people here,” he said. A balance must also be achieved in the political arena, Boehlert said.
“The administration in Albany understands that higher education can be a bulwark, and I can safely say that Albany is committed to ensuring its academic institutions are leaders in research and engines of economic growth. Higher education is one of New York’s greatest comparative assets.”
Turning to the role of the federal government in funding research, Boehlert was optimistic that funding will increase, though the budget outlook is “murkier than usual.
“The international situation affects everything,” he said, “but signs are positive. My bill that was signed last year has NSF on track to double its budget over a five-year period and we will continue to receive significant increases. We’re moving in the right direction.”
Boehlert said the National Institutes of Health will likely continue to do well, though the pace of growth will be slower than for the NSF.
As chair of the Science Committee, Boehlert said he is also making the case for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and other agencies to increase funding for the physical sciences. “The new Department of Homeland Security is creating a science and technology directorate with a new undersecretary for research and development to coordinate these initiatives,” he said. “Most of the money will be focused on development, but expect the new department to become a major player in basic research. Our university centers can be in the hunt and can compete.”
When it comes to bringing more research dollars to New York, Boehlert said schools need to rely on alumni, trustees and corporate partners to reach beyond the borders of the state to get increased funding. He added that it will pay off to keep Washington representatives aware of requests.
“The better your proposals, the more likely you will be funded, but let us know when you have applications pending and if they are in areas of research that need emphasis,” he said. “I’m focusing on cyber security and nanotechnol-ogy.
“We have a lot to do, but there are no insurmountable barriers to confront,” Boehlert said. “Federal dollars are likely to increase in spite of the current situation, and if we balance our strategy, New York state will be seen as a preeminent economic as well as intellectual center.”