The United States university sector’s research enterprise is an important national asset. It is highly competitive and highly innovative in ordinary times, and during the past year plagued by coronavirus it pivoted quickly to conduct urgently needed research on a new threat. Beyond its national and international significance, the research enterprise is also an enormous asset— intellectually and financially—for each of the individual universities with a major stake in it.
At the high level, the pandemic may seem not to have done lasting damage. Indeed, in the current economic downturn, while universities have lost billions, externally funded research has proven to be the most resilient major revenue source for large universities. The authors believe that this view, while accurate, may mask a set of concerns that deserves greater scrutiny and perhaps eventual mitigation.
This issue brief provides a summary of the disruptions of 2020 and their implications on the research support and enablement functions going forward. The goal of this paper is to provide an overview of the key issues facing university budgets and research enablement and support services they fund, to determine whether there are risks emerging for the research enterprise that deserve possible mitigation.