6/12/19 Theresa Mayer

Theresa Mayer

Purdue has lost $15 million of its total expenditures because of the pandemic, as research investigators recorded financial losses while the University adjusted to COVID-19, an administrator said Wednesday morning.

Purdue’s executive vice president for research and partnerships served as one of four witnesses Wednesday morning to a U.S. House of Representatives hearing that focused on the pandemic’s effects on university research across the country.

Administrator Theresa Mayer answered questions posed by the House Subcommittee on Research and Technology regarding how COVID-19 has affected research at Purdue. She, alongside representatives from the University of Illinois, Oakland University and Carnegie Mellon University, detailed the struggles researchers have experienced as they’ve tried to return to work over the past several months.

Mayer said 11% of Purdue’s total portfolio was lost as a result of the global health crisis.

The primary reason for their losses is the restricted access to research facilities, Mayer said.

Purdue expects researchers to experience decreased productivity because of continuing travel restrictions, gaps in child care, remote research and other factors. Growing evidence points to the pandemic disproportionately impacting women and minority populations, Mayer said, further affecting many researchers.

Each of the four witnesses referenced COVID-19’s disproportionate effect on underrepresented populations.

State Rep. for Indiana District 4, of which Purdue is a part, Jim Baird spoke to Purdue’s successes in engineering research. Before the house members even heard from witnesses, Baird praised his alma mater’s research, specifically one research project wherein Boilermakers are working to create a COVID-19 diagnostic device out of paper, for easier and cheaper coronavirus detection.

The representatives pressed university spokespeople on how federal grants might be helpful to collegiate research across the nation. The two bills in question are H.R. 7308 and H.R. 8044, the RISE and Supporting Early-Career Researchers acts, respectively.

The RISE Act plans to provide $26 billion in emergency funding to science agencies for the full cost of research grants. Conversely, the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act will create a $250 million fellowship program at the National Science Foundation, to focus on keeping recent doctoral graduates in the “STEM pipeline,” a sentiment many speakers shared Wednesday morning.

RISE Act co-sponsor Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, spoke to the importance universities have beyond merely educating undergraduates, especially in the time of the coronavirus.

Nearly 200,000 Americans have died, Johnson said, because of an unprecedented lack of firm guidance, though she didn’t specify from where.

“The nation is in a crisis on many fronts,” Johnson said. “In the midst of this crisis, it may be hard to think about our future, and it may be even harder to convince our colleagues and the American people of the urgent need to rescue our universities.

“Doing so, is to rescue our future.”

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