Late last week, it was announced that the Environmental Protection Agency awarded a University of Connecticut professor, Dr. Stephen Swallow, with an $800,000 research grant. These types of grants are crucial in UConn’s effort to secure a position as one of the nation’s top public research universities. While the university continues seeking funds for expansion and renovation, officials must also aid professors, like Dr. Swallow, in securing research grants from external sources.
According to reporting from Marlese Lessing of The Daily Campus “The grant itself was awarded by the EPA to six other schools…with the aim of providing funds for research into water quality and protection of water resources…” In 2014, the University of Connecticut sourced the majority of its research budget, $144.1 million according to the CT Mirror, from federal sources with $78.37 million from UConn itself and $10.79 million from state and local government.
With increasing budget constraints and the possibility of further budget cuts from the State, UConn should provide all support necessary to professors, faculty and research staff in order to secure the maximum level of outside funding for university research. Grants of this scale are vitally important in UConn’s continued effort to push for status as a top national public research university. Without outside funding, and with a severely restricted budget, UConn cannot support the kind of groundbreaking research required to gain national recognition.
These type of grants also allow UConn researchers to work on timely issues, as these often receive an injection of federal funding. Dr. Swallow’s grant is for water quality, with his team having a specific “focus [on] water quality change’s value to the economy…” Even in the United States, water quality issues plague underserved urban and rural areas, even notably affecting the Storrs area during this semester. Grants provide opportunities to work on issues that might no otherwise receive priority funding.
The university, in seeking to balance the budget and gain a national reputation, must continue to provide as much institutional support for faculty in their pursuit to gain federal and other non-institution grants. Professors in the humanities, arts and social sciences are also vying for competitive grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Support should not prioritize any specific field or discipline, but should instead seek to benefit all UConn faculty. Dr. Swallow deserves congratulations for his work and success in receiving a substantial grant from the EPA. Moving forward, the university should provide as much support to those seeking grants. Building infrastructure and renovating provide the physical space needed for research; however, with a tight-budget, grants are vital for academic research.