Many think university research is funded by tuition and student fees. This is false. In fact, research in colleges (both public and private) gets most of its funding through federal grants.

In scientific research, a majority of these federal grants comes from the NIH, NSF, and DoE. Some of it comes from private sources, but most flows from federal sources. And private funding becomes harder to get every year. The Ghostbusters line sums it up: “Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn’t have to produce anything! You’ve never been out of college! You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results.”

This being the case, getting universities to stop accepting federal grants that promote NSA won’t be easy and will call for some creative thinking. But it’s not and impossible task.

What we need is funding competition.

Here’s just one idea: a Kickstarter campaign, or at least one where people of a state can fund into a program that will be given this money based on a following privacy conditions and the Fourth Amendment.

My plan:

1. Bring together an appropriate independent review board (IRB).
-Community members
-Tenthers/Restore the 4th/YAL to bring forward the Constitutional aspects
-possible collaboration with EFF, EPIC, Wired. Bring exposure to the cause, and make recommendations. I’m not a tech expert. We’re going to need some.
-Professors and faculty need to share their vision of where their programs are going to lead.

2. Deny federal funding that promotes NSA research. Return federal funds. If college will accept this alternative funding.

3. Get the local communities involved. If a companies cannot provide funding, maybe they can provide internships in the summer focused on security and privacy. Forming critical skills is essential in universities. Forming professional relationships, networking, and gaining experience is critical after college.

4. Universities need to come up with standards for technology. NSA currently is trying to award many companies while degrading security. This has been even been cited by NIST.

It’s not unheard of when private organizations come up with their own standards and regulation. For instance: NFPA – National Fire Protection Association, API – American Petroleum Institute, ASME codes – American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and AICHE/CCPS – American Institute of CHemical Engineers/Center for Chemical Process SAfety have all come up with their own best practices, standards, and regulations.

5. Get the public involved. We need to be more interactive with our universities. We can’t just interact at fields, courts, and rinks.

Perhaps we can start with North Carolina State. Now, I know we won’t make $60 million, but maybe we can get enough to not close labs and help provide critical thinking and a focus on ethics, constitutionality, and privacy issues as technology evolves. NC, holds the Research Triangle. CDC, huge tech companies, and pharma are the backbone of the state.

The bottom line is we need to come up with alternative solutions. Research funding is important, but universities and other institutions need to free themselves from the federal tentacles. This is going to take some creative thinking, but it can be done. This is just one idea. Let’s start putting our heads together and figure out how to break the current federally funded paradigm.

Kelli Sladick

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