University research being squeezed in South Dakota

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Research at public universities in South Dakota is being squeezed by a drop-off in federal funding.

The number of people at South Dakota State University paid through research grants and contracts has dropped from about 1,500 in 2012 to about 1,000 this year, due to an end to federal stimulus funding coupled with federal budget cuts. At the University of South Dakota, the number has dropped from about 600 to about 450. Those people primarily are graduate and post-graduate students and assistants, along with support staff.

"What that means is, we have less research productivity," Mary Berry, vice president for research at USD, told the Argus Leader newspaper ( ). "You have fewer people involved in research, fewer students that we are able to have in our programs and thus fewer graduate students who are educated."

The fear is that the funding environment will quash passion for research and send would-be scientists down other career paths. However, South Dakota is better off than some other states, where research facilities built in recent years on college campuses now sit unused.

"Those are the realities in many places that have overbuilt," said Kevin Kephart, vice president for research at SDSU. "We're fortunate; that's not an issue here."

Some universities are looking at public-private partnerships as an alternative. Campuses are getting more aggressive in pursuing fee-for-service-based activity that ultimately can help industries with challenges they might be facing, according to Paul Turman, vice president of academic affairs for the state Board of Regents.

"Federal funding agencies want to see that — want to see what can be done at the end of the road with research activity," he said.

Universities also are narrowing the focus of research.

"The discussion at our institution is, 'What do we do to become more competitive?' " Kephart said. "You don't do that by saying we're going to be competitive in each and every discipline everywhere."


Information from: Argus Leader,

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