Earmarks critical to scientific progress

The University of New Hampshire recently opened a new atmospheric observatory to systematically monitor the chemical makeup of the air — and the pollutants — over our heads. This includes the first systematic recording of atmospheric mercury and some 200 other chemical compounds. The UNH AIRMAP Observatory is unmatched in North America and perhaps the world.

Given the ongoing political commentary condemning congressional earmarks, readers might be interested to know that this world-class observatory developed only because of a series of earmarks obtained by Sen. Judd Gregg. Lost in the commentary seems to be any understanding that these are individual cases, each needing to be judged on their merits.

It is vital to understand that there simply are no existing competitive or programmatic options available for developing such a state-of-the-art facility, which probably is the reason that no other such monitoring facilities exist.

AIRMAP has created wonderful opportunities for UNH. It supports extensive graduate student and undergraduate education.

We are collaborating with scientists within federal agencies and in universities around the world. We are making significant contributions to the advancement of our understanding of air pollution chemistry and making these available in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. We are working closely with the private sector to develop new analytical instrumentation to measure pollutants. We have established a new collaborative Ph.D. program in atmospheric chemistry, and our AIRMAP scientists are very competitive in securing federal funds to sustain their research programs.

We believe the AIRMAP facility will be an important environmental legacy and continue to contribute to the advancement of science for many years to come.

Whatever is going on elsewhere, we at UNH are committed to using funds wisely. In the research field, this includes pioneering efforts to unravel the complexities of what is going on in the air overhead here in New Hampshire.

Taylor Eighmy is interim vice president for research at the University of New Hampshire.

Categories: Opinion