Government shutdown touches Triangle too
The impact of the federal government shutdown was felt Tuesday in the Triangle, where federal agencies have major Research Triangle Park operations and universities have researchers applying for and working under federal research dollars.
Duke and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill officials indicated Tuesday that the short-term impact of the shutdown was minimal, but could have more significant effects on research funding in the longer term.
“Basically, the headline is that the impact of the government shutdown on Duke University right now is minimal and not noticeable by the institution, but if it lasts longer -- and I don’t know if that’s a couple weeks, or when that happens -- then it could start to have an impact on some of the research dollars that are flowing to the institution,” said Chris Simmons, Duke University’s associate vice president for federal relations.
For fiscal year 2012, research awards for the university and medical center totaled $33 million from the U.S. Department of Defense, $419.7 million from the National Institutes of Health and $56 million from the National Science Foundation, according to an email from Melissa Vetterkind, director of Duke’s Office of Federal Relations.
Duke researchers operating under existing federal grants still could work on their projects, Simmons said, but those applying for new ones may not get calls or emails returned.
An NIH statement said that people with existing grants with no restrictions could continue to draw funds, and an online grants system is available and open to new applications.
However, the statement said those would only be stored and not processed. In addition, NIH officials would not be available to provide services during a shutdown.
“The (National Institutes of Health) has said if (you’re) submitting an application for a new grant this week – don’t,” Simmons said. “Just because there’s no one there to get it; people are going to get out-of-office responses from the NIH.”
James W. Dean Jr., executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in an email to the campus Tuesday that the university planned for the shutdown scenario and was prepared for it.
“Currently, the university is operating on a normal basis,” he said.
The university will use available money to support work related to research contracts and grants, Dean said in the email, and students receiving federal financial aid should not see award changes.
However, he also said a longer-term shutdown could mean challenges. The University’s Office of Research Communications set up a Web site to provide information on the impacts of federal sequestration, and that was updated with information about the shutdown
In the Research Triangle Park, both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which is part of the NIH, were affected by the shutdown.
The vast majority of the 1,370 employees at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences work in the Triangle’s business park, and most of them were furloughed Tuesday.
Attempts to reach officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has more than 2,000 workers and contractors at its park campus, were unsuccessful Tuesday. Emails were returned with “out of office” replies due to the shutdown.