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Editorial: Feeling stimulated

February 17 marked the first anniversary of the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — better known as the economic stimulus package. The University noted the occasion by putting out a press release listing the research at Brown that has benefited from stimulus funding. In the first year of ARRA, 47 projects at Brown received an additional total of $33 million on top of regular government and private support, which usually averages about $135 million annually. The press release, available on Public Affairs and University Relations' website, is worthwhile reading for anyone curious about the range of fascinating research that takes place at Brown or the local impact of one of President Obama's signature initiatives.

Brown prides itself on being a place where undergraduates are exposed to cutting-edge research, and we are pleased to note that money from ARRA has preserved and expanded such opportunities for students. The editorial page board surveyed several professors who received stimulus money and found that undergraduate students were involved with many research projects.

Assistant Professor of Biology Erika Edwards is researching plant evolution, and her results may help predict how plants respond to rapid climate change. Money from ARRA will allow her to support two additional undergraduate researchers working in her lab during the summers of 2010 and 2011.

Professor of Computer Science David Laidlaw is developing a new virtual reality display system that aims to be of use to scientists of all sorts — from planetary geologists to molecular biologists. He recently hired an additional undergraduate research assistant using stimulus funds.

As Vice President for Research Clyde Briant said in an e-mail to the editorial page board, "In general, the ARRA funds have provided more opportunities for research for our faculty and that, in turn, will lead to more opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students."
The positive impact of the stimulus package here at Brown is undeniable. Moreover, there is a growing consensus among economists that the additional government spending had a significant impact nationally, saving and creating jobs and preventing an even worse recession. According to a recent article in the New York Times, three of the leading economic research firms all estimated that the stimulus act added 1.6 to 1.8 million jobs through February.

Still, some critics continue to attack the administration's stimulus efforts. Consider a Feb. 20 op-ed in the New York Times by Lincoln Chafee '75, the former Rhode Island Senator and current gubernatorial candidate who was also previously a visiting fellow at Brown's Watson Institute for International Studies. Chafee attributed Obama's "difficult first year in office" in part to "his failure to devise a stimulus bill that could win a single Republican vote in the House."

We are disappointed that Chafee did not include equally critical words for the uncompromising opposition to the stimulus act, which threatened to undercut the national recovery and the additional support for research in Rhode Island here at Brown.
More politicking over the merit of the stimulus will undoubtedly occur as the midterm elections approach. Where the national debate is strident and partisan, we only point out that at the local level, the positive impact of the stimulus has been clearly observed.



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