Pitt research is critical to the local economy
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William Krayer's Jan. 16 letter to the editor ("Taxpayers Should Question Pitt's Research") minimizes the value of university research and compares it unfavorably to work done by corporations.
I spent most of my career at the former Westinghouse Electric Corp. and have enormous respect for commercial innovators, including the corporations listed in his letter. However, Mr. Krayer's view of today's economy is woefully out of date.
Earlier this year, a blue-ribbon committee chaired by the former CEO of DuPont -- like Westinghouse, a great corporate innovator -- reported that business has "largely dismantled the large corporate research laboratories that drove American industrial leadership in the 20th century." Today, the report further noted, American research universities "provide the heartbeat that keeps major innovation alive."
As has been carefully chronicled in this newspaper, the past 30 years brought a sharp decline in industrial employment and the rapid rise of the "eds and meds" as this region's largest employment sector. It was largely that sector that protected this region from the worst of the Great Recession and has led our strong economic rebound.
Further, much of Pitt's pioneering work has advanced the cause of human health. The Salk polio vaccine, the synthesis of insulin and human organ transplantation are three well-known examples. More recently, Pitt received international attention for demonstrating that artificial limbs can be moved solely through the power of human thought.
This is not the kind of work that anyone would expect to be undertaken in corporate labs. However, both for the boost that health-related research gives our local economy and for the broader good of humankind, most of us are very glad that Pittsburgh has become a center for such research.
G. REYNOLDS CLARK
Vice Chancellor for Community Initiatives University of Pittsburgh
First Published January 18, 2013 12:00 am