VU Researchers Calling Lawmakers on Support of Science


Chemistry undergrad student Erik Jewell makes photo electrodes in the lab. Photo credit John Russell/Vanderbilt University

Researchers at Vanderbilt are taking time away from their labs to lobby congress, albeit informally. PhD candidates are worried the impending fiscal cliff will leave them without money to keep working.

The NIH is slated for an across-the-board eight percent cut, and Vanderbilt is one of the agency’s top grant recipients. This year the university hauled in nearly $320 million, funding thousands of positions on campus, some of which are now at risk.

Neuroscience grad student Andrew Hardaway organized a phon-a-thon to ring lawmakers in Washington, asking them to protect NIH funding.

“I think we get the polite response, which is, ‘yeah, I love scientific research.’ But I guess we’re kind of calling them on it and asking them to put the money where their mouth is.”

Hardaway says students began by calling congressmen from their hometowns and will move on to lawmakers appearing to need a nudge at another phon-a-thon next week.

Vanderbilt administrators stress that this is student-led and not an official lobbying effort. However, the university operates its own lobbying office in Washington.

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