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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Management > Strategic Planning for Green and Sustainable Management > Research and Development

Scientific Jobs Are Veering Toward Applied Sciences

Scientific research is responding to the political and environmental priorities of applied sciences -- energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy sources.

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The Obama administration's push to solve the nation's energy problems is creating a massive federal program that rivals the Manhattan Project. This energy security, renewable energy and energy efficiency program is spurring a once-in-a-generation shift in U.S. science.

The government's multibillion-dollar push into energy research is reinvigorating 17 giant U.S.-funded research facilities, from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Green Research Jobs In fiscal 2009, the Obama administration increased the funding by 18% to the Department of Energy's Office of Science, which oversees 10 national labs and funds research at 7 more. The office will receive $1.6 billion in government stimulus spending which will also also channel significant funding to these laboratories.

The Office of Science estimates its bigger budget allowed it to create nearly 1,400 research jobs at the 10 labs it oversees in the fiscal year ending in September, up 11% from the previous year's staffing levels, as well as hundreds more government lab jobs.

As a result, the balance of U.S. science is shifting away from the pure research typically practiced at universities -- toward applied science.

Oak Ridge plans to increase its staff by 25%, or 800 positions, over the next 18 months -- even as its neighbor, the University of Tennessee, has lost state funding and pared back faculty searches.

Follow the Money

Of the $1.6 billion bound for the DOE's Office of Science, about $347 million is available to universities. Schools will also be able to tap funds through other stimulus recipients, including other DOE branches as well as the National Institutes of Health, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation.

The catch is that government grants can require large amounts of paperwork -- requiring workers that universities must pay themselves. "We're losing staff that administer the research. It's a problem all universities are tackling," says Dr. Witherell of the University of California.

Funding has been a teeter totter for scientific research. In 2006, the National Academies, a group of scientists and technology experts who advise the government, published "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," a report that said America's scientific and technological expertise was "eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength." Then-president George W. Bush proposed doubling the budget for the DOE's Office of Science over 10 years.

In California, the Lawrence Berkeley lab says it will receive about $240 million for research in alternative energy sources, computing, energy efficiency and other areas.

Read more about energy funding at WSJ.com.



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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