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Upton reintroduces bipartisan legislation to support U.S. research community during pandemic

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Washington, February 8, 2021 | Josh Paciorek (202-225-3761) | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced bipartisan legislation to authorize billions in funding to U.S. researchers who have been impacted by the pandemic - the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act.

The RISE Act was reintroduced in the 117th Congress after Upton and DeGette introduced it the summer of 2020.

While coronavirus-related research is now in overdrive, most other research has been slowed down or stopped altogether due to pandemic-induced closures of campuses and laboratories. Now, tens of thousands of graduate students, postdocs, principal investigators and other technical support staff are at risk of losing their employment and their work without federal relief. Additionally, with this research stopped, America may lose the benefits that come with new technologies and scientific insights.

“In the past year we have seen how valuable science, research, and innovation are to our nation’s public health, national security, economic growth and international competitiveness,” Upton said. “The RISE Act is critical legislation that will support our researchers at Western Michigan University  and universities across the country. Preserving our innovation pipeline will help ensure America remains a global leader in research and development.

“America has some of the best and brightest minds in the world working on potentially groundbreaking research,” DeGette said. “We can’t afford to lose them or their important work. Ensuring our researchers have the resources they need to continue finding innovative solutions to some of our nation’s toughest problems is vital to our national security and our ability to remain competitive on the world stage. Any lapse in funding now could set us back years, possibly even decades.”

The RISE Act authorizes approximately $26 billion in emergency relief for federal science agencies – such as the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation and others – to award to research universities, independent institutions, and national laboratories to continue working on federally-funded research projects.

This funding could, among other things, enable graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and Principal Investigators to complete work that was disrupted by COVID-19, or extend the training or employment of researchers on an existing research project for up to two years because of the disruption of the job market.

The RISE Act would also allow certain federal agencies to award research grants and cooperative agreements to colleges or universities to conduct research on the behavioral, social or economic effects of COVID-19 and the responses to the disease, as well as the effectiveness of such responses.

"It is important that this legislation recognizes the breadth of critical research supported by the federal government across disciplines from energy and the environment to health and technology," says Terri Goss Kinzy, vice president for research and Innovation at Western Michigan University. "Our faculty, students and staff have adapted very safe ways to continue research, but the required reduced laboratory occupancy, safety protocols and challenges at home have made performing their critical work more difficult.  Support for research to train our workforce, drive economic activity and improve the quality of life in Kalamazoo, our region and across Michigan is critical.”

Not only would the funding seek to improve U.S. research competitiveness and pandemic preparedness, but it would also provide critical support to the nation’s economy. According to IRIS data, American universities used research funds to pay more than 560,000 people on campuses across the country in fiscal year 2018-2019. The RISE Act will help ensure that this important sector of the economy continues to thrive even after the pandemic subsides.

The legislation also has the support of more than 320 higher education, research and industry groups – including Google, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Association of American Universities.

A copy of the legislation is available here.

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