MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State lawmakers are considering a controversial proposal that would require University of Hawaii researchers to use grant money they receive to fund their own salaries and departments.
Rob Wright, associate director of the Hawaii Institute for Geophysics and Planetology, said many UH-Manoa research faculty are appalled by measures that would make them pay their own salaries entirely from "extramural funds," or money received through gr ants and other funds.
"I won't stay here and work for free," he said. "I will leave for a university on the mainland and take all my gr ant money with me."
State Rep. Isaac Choy, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, wrote the bills being considered and says they're aimed at maximizing state appropriations.
"Researchers should be funding themselves," he said. "Research is a profit arm. It can support academics. It can support sports. It can support other functions of the university."
But Wright says that's already the case.
He said that the institute got $20 million in state support last year. "The researchers and the faculty in this building took that and turned it into $100 million of extramural income."
Choy is quick to note that the bill is just a "report bill," meant to gather data.
"It has a lot of suggestive language in there we think researchers should adhere to," he said.
Wright sees it another way.
"If you cancel the research effort from the University of Hawaii, next year the state economy will lose $200-300 million. And it will lose $200-300 million dollars the next year, the year after that, the year after that," Wright said.