Thursday, May 03, 2007

Reporting Research Funding

The latest addition to the Northwest's journalism community is an online paper that focuses on "news of the great nearby." The great part refers I suppose to the Northwest... In principle, I like the idea of focusing news presentations on issues that make a difference in our region. The Crosscut staff is led by David Brewster and is composed of some Seattle reporting legacy characters, most notably Knute "Skip" Berger who now goes as Mossback.

In the first original Crosscut material I've seen that has to do with the science conducted in the Northwest, Brewster reports an uninspired list of statistics that is essentially a data table put into sentences. The bottom line is that universities in the Northwest are doing pretty well in attracting federal funds for science research - except for Idaho.

For example, it might be worth pointing out that all of the states ahead of Washington have two to five times the number of 'R01' (large research) universities as in WA. Other consequences of funding could be explored, such as keeping the NW a vibrant research community for young scientists, entrepreneurs and leaders in scientific research. How do these numbers compare in per capita?

What of the political implications of rankings like these? I would appreciate reporting what these rankings mean for state support for public higher ed. The UW has a tough time every biennium getting its budget approved by the legislature. Is this due to the surprisingly low percentage of state legislatures who have college degrees? What is state funding like in other NW states? Is Alaska's successful growth in receiving federal funds related to increases there in state allocation to research? Could this relate to Washington's plans to spend tobacco settlement money on the Life Sciences Initiative?

It is important for the public to know what great institutions of learning we have in our backyards, so I appreciate the coverage. It just seems like a little more work would have made a lot more informative article.

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