Millions of research dollars at stake as Price, Lawson compete for Congress

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At our packed-to-the-gills debate between U.S. Rep. David Price and two-time challenger B.J. Lawson last week, the two men sparred on, among many other issues, federal research funding.

B.J. Lawson, shown here campaigning at Mediterranean Deli in Chapel Hill in 2008, is pro-pita bread and anti-government-funded research.
  • Photo by D.L. Anderson
  • B.J. Lawson, shown here campaigning at Mediterranean Deli in Chapel Hill in 2008, is pro-pita bread and anti-government-funded research.
Lawson wants to privatize research and development, essentially cutting the legs of university research. Price questioned how a candidate running to represent the Research Triangle Park, UNC and Duke University district in Washington could hold such a view.

Today, coincidentally or not, Duke University—where Price has taught public policy—issued a press release touting the benefits of the $287 million in NIH grants given to the Research Triangle region through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“Federal grants for academic research and development are intended to create long-term health benefits and economic opportunity,” the release reminds.

Duke has been awarded 360 grants worth a total $202 million. Most of that, $166,3 million, has been allocated for research in the School of Medicine and School of Nursing, creating or preserving more than 300 jobs at Duke. UNC has earned 463 awards worth $168.9 million

The release goes on to detail projects made possible by the grants such as developing longer-lasting therapy for prostate cancer, creating new centers to study addiction and to train information technology specialists to work in health care and studying photovoltaics and energy saving strategies for low-income areas,

The infusion of funds also trickles down to local businesses as researchers purchase needed items and can help create start-up companies that provide jobs and expand the tax base.

"The stimulus funds are doing two things," James Siedow, Duke's vice provost for research, states in the release. "Near-term, it's about creating jobs and economic activity. Longer term, academic research is an investment in American competitiveness. University research is the source of new ideas and new workers that will help our nation compete in a global marketplace."

Lawson contends that the private market can take care of that by itself. Voters will decide who they trust Nov. 2.

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