Right now, the future is being shaped by research institutions all across this country. Whether it's inventing a device that will revolutionize industry, uncovering evidence that will shed some light on the creation of the universe, or perhaps making a medical discovery that will alter how all of us live our lives, research institutions such as Johns Hopkins are the breeding ground for tomorrow's breakthroughs.
And, to disregard the old adage not to toot one's own horn, sometimes the federal government needs to be reminded just how important research institutions are to this country.
For his part, university President William R. Brody has made his presence known in the nation's capital to let government leaders understand how vital the continued funding of higher education and research is to both the nation's economy and to its future. And if the recently passed federal budget--which includes funding increases to several research and higher education programs--is any sign, politicians are indeed listening.
Thomas Etten, assistant to the president and executive director of the Office of Government Relations, said that during Brody's tenure as president, he has assumed an ever-increasing leadership role among university presidents in terms of lobbying for federal grants and spending for higher education and research initiatives.
Etten said that President Brody, as the highest-ranking official of one of the nation's leading research institutions, feels an obligation to comment on legislative issues that impact higher education.
"President Brody has established as a priority that he participate in the political process and be part of the dialogue with Congress to discuss matters pertaining to higher education and scientific research," said Etten, adding that Brody appeared before Congress on three separate occasions between March and October. "He is physically down there lobbying Congress to continue to support the important role of the nation's research universities."
The importance of Brody's advocacy role, Etten said, is that federal funds make up a significant portion of a research institution's operating expenses. The Johns Hopkins University, for example, spent more than $943 million in federal money in its last fiscal year. NASA alone directly awarded the Applied Physics Laboratory and other Hopkins divisions in excess of $103 million for research and development.
Eugene Hinman, interim director of APL, said that without federal funding, "APL just wouldn't exist." It is almost solely funded by the federal government, with the largest percentage of its income coming from the Department of Defense.
Hinman said that the advocacy role that President Brody has taken is absolutely vital to maintain the university's research funding and that of higher education in general.
"Our view is that government must play a lead role in funding research and development for the betterment of the nation's well-being," Hinman said. "And it is essential that university representatives keep our mission visible and both reinforce and emphasize our value in this area. That means being on the forefront of congressmen's and senators' thought processes when they go to approve funding."
Etten said that Brody's leadership role involves thinking strategically about how to position the university and prioritize issues so that Hopkins can be well-placed to compete for federal grants.
Specifically, Brody has become an active leader in three major lobbying groups: the Council on Competitiveness, The Science Coalition and the Association of American Universities.
The Council on Competitiveness grew out of a 1980s fear that within the global marketplace America was losing its edge in technology innovation. The council thus focuses on strengthening U.S. innovation, upgrading the work force and benchmarking national economic performance by concentrating on issues such as technological innovation and work-force development
For two years Brody has been a member of the council's executive committee and last year was one of three co-chairs, with William R. Hambrecht R. Hambrecht of W.R. Hambrecht & Co. and William C. Steere Jr. of Pfizer Inc., for a study that looked at innovation and emerging technologies.
Brody represented the council this year before the Senate Science and Technology Caucus, chaired by Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to discuss the role of the research university and U.S. competitiveness in the global economy.
Brody also represents the university on behalf of The Science Coalition, a group of more than 400 universities, organizations and private businesses that seeks to expand and strengthen the federal government's investment in university-based scientific, medical, engineering and agricultural research. Along with the presidents of Harvard and the University System of Maryland, he was invited to a Democratic Leadership Conference discussion on technology.
And, as a representative of the American Association of Universities, Brody has been working with other university presidents to ensure the continued federal support of academic medical centers. The AAU, founded in 1900 by 14 universities, currently comprises 59 American and two Canadian universities. The organization serves its members by assisting them in developing national policy positions on issues that relate to academic research and graduate and professional education.
Brody also met earlier in the year with Sen. William Roth, R-Del., the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, who was instrumental in allocating $12.8 billion in federal funds to hospitals nationwide for relief from the adverse effects of Medicare cuts.
The government's recently passed fiscal 2000 budget includes some overall good numbers for higher education, Etten said.
The maximum Pell Grant award was raised to $3,300, a $175 increase over fiscal year 1999.
The Federal Work-Study Program was increased by $64 million to $934 million.
The National Science Foundation was given an appropriation of $3.9 billion, a 6.7 percent increase from fiscal year 1999.
The National Institutes of Health appropriation totaled $17.9 billion, representing a 15 percent increase from the previous year.
Etten said these numbers cannot be attributed directly to Brody's efforts but are rather the result of a national effort in which Brody has played an active role.
"He is lobbying for more than just money for Hopkins," Etten said. "President Brody is a leader among university presidents to ensure the continued and historic partnership between federal government and research universities."