A Senate spending panel yesterday agreed to give the National Institutes of Health a $1 billion raise in 2008, a 3.5% increase that would bring NIH's budget to $29.9 billion. Although that's only half of what biomedical research advocates are hoping for, the increase is slightly more than the House has approved. Both bills would reverse President George W. Bush’s request for a $279 million cut.
The Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education. and Related Agencies approved the bump in a markup of a broader spending bill. The total is less than meets the eye, however. Like the corresponding House bill (ScienceNOW, 7 June), the Senate measure would add $200 million to the $100 million that NIH now transfers to the Global AIDS Fund. That effectively cuts the Senate raise to only 2.8%. The Senate measure also parallels the House's decision to include $111 million for the National Children's Study--a potentially $3 billion project not requested by the president (Science, 9 February, p. 751).
Both the House and Senate bills are expected to require grantees to send a copy of their accepted manuscripts to NIH. The institute would then post the papers in a free online archive up to 12 months after they appear in a journal. Participation in the program is now voluntary, but the response rate has been tiny--only 4% of eligible papers are being submitted.
The full Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on the bill tomorrow; its House counterpart is expected to be acted on in July, and differences in the bills will need to be reconciled. But congressional action "is only half the battle," says Jon Retzlaff, legislative relations director for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Bethesda, Maryland. President Bush has already promised to veto the final bill for exceeding his requested spending level.