Every day that the federal government is shut down costs Oregon State University $600,000 in lost research funding, OSU officials say.
Since the shutdown began Tuesday, “we’ve already spent $2.4 million on being idled,” Rick Spinrad, OSU’s vice-president for research, said Friday.
OSU is engaged in government-funded research involving everything from forestry to fisheries health, climate change and homeland security.
Last year, the university received $154 million from the federal government for research.
“We get funding from probably about a dozen agencies and bureaus; every one of them is inactive (now). We have 1,000 research projects, and two-thirds of them are federally funded.”
For example, the 40 federally funded researchers at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport are shut out of their offices and laboratories. The facility itself is shuttered until the shutdown is resolved.
“The parking lot looks like a ghost town,” Spinrad said.
Although the employees who feed and care for animals involved in the research at the Science Center are considered “crucial,” and remain on the job, OSU researchers cannot address questions to their federal partners because those partners have been furloughed.
“There’s a big difference between keeping those animals alive and being able to continue the research, such as regular monitoring,” he said. “It’s a little bit like your doctor being out of the office, but saying you can still come in and get weighed and leave a blood sample — but nobody will analyze it.”
What’s more, Spinrad said, there is no certainty that research partners will be compensated for the down time once the government resumes operation.
Not until late Friday did government officials in Washington D.C. give any indication that research partners, furloughed employees and others impacted by the shutdown would be retroactively compensated.
Websites that were supposed to keep research partners updated were not working because of the shutdown, a Catch-22 situation.
“That’s government thinking,” Spinrad said.
Misinformation is rampant.
For example, he said one false report indicated that the nation’s 20 or so federally funded NOAA research ships all would be called back to port.
However, that wasn’t true. OSU scientists and their federal partners aboard the research vessel Oceanus still are out at sea, engaged in studies that include the ocean’s biological productivity and how oceans impact weather.
The vessel’s home port is Newport, and the research is funded through the National Science Foundation.
In Corvallis, the Environmental Protection Agency office, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Geological Survey employees all are among major research partners who are idled by the shutdown.
That impacts a major climate change research program with the USGS.
How much will the shutdown damage research projects? That depends on when leaders in Washington D.C. can resolve the matter, Sprinrad said.