The respected Chronicle of Higher Education
has just published a new report on the scramble for academic earmarks
. A surprise, considering how well the University of Washington does in federally funded research and how well placed Sen. Patty Murray is: The UW is not among the leading porkers.
The study focuses on earmarks, which are sly insertions of programs that powerful lawmakers can make happen. An example is the University of Alaska, which came in 16th on the list, and which gained $968,000 for research on berries, inserted by Sen. Ted Stevens. The top two schools, reflecting the state's seniority and clout, were in Mississippi. Mississippi State University led the porkroll for earmarks, with $43 million for 30 different projects. Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran is ranking Republican on Senate Appropriations Committee, by the way.
Other leading winners from the region were the University of Hawaii, 5th on the list, and Montana State, an emerging research dynamo, which is 20th in the nation in academic earmarks. Appearing well down the list are these Northwest public universities: University of Idaho (60th), University of Washington (68), Washington State University (75), Oregon State (155), University of Oregon (190), and Idaho State (196).
Overall, earmarks for colleges hit $2.3 billion in the Chronicle
survey, up a modest $300 million from the last time a survey was conducted, in 2003. Earmarks are under increasing pressure, with McCain, Clinton, and Obama all saying they'll swear off them if elected.
The most respectable universities deplore earmarks, thinking they lack dignity and siphon off properly-competitive funds. But, as the Chronicle
The dirty little secret about earmarks for science is that while college officials occasionally fret about them in public, they chase them in private. At meetings of the Association of American Universities, a group of 62 research institutions, some presidents regularly complain that earmarks are squeezing out peer-reviewed awards — "and then they go home and call up their congressman to ask for an earmark," said one president, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to be free to discuss the meetings.
The journal also has a list of overall academic pork, ranking the states in their results at the Congressional trough. Texas leads the list, with California a lofty sixth place. Oregon is 16th, Alaska is 28th, Washington is 33rd, and Montana is 34th.