Next week, the Obama administration will kick off the annual U.S. budget process by sending Congress its spending request for the 2016 fiscal year that begins in October. Researchers will be watching the 2 February budget rollout carefully, to see where science ranks in the White House’s priorities. But the request is just the beginning, because Congress determines final spending levels in a process that isn’t likely to be finalized until late in the year.
This week, ScienceInsider is running a few stories that offer varying perspectives on the process of setting science budgets—and the people involved. Yesterday, we met Representative John Culberson (R–TX), the new leader of the House of Representatives spending panel that oversees the budgets of NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other key research agencies. Tomorrow, we’ll follow the money and look at some of the numbers. Today, we meet a former historian who is the new head of a House spending panel that oversees the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the major federal funder of basic biomedical research.
If you’re shocked that a member of the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives would cite a Marxist historian in defending peer review at a federal agency, then you don’t know Representative Tom Cole (R–OK).
The 65-year-old Oklahoman has stayed below the radar screen of most U.S. scientists, despite serving in Congress since 2003 and holding a Ph.D. in history. But that’s about to change: This month he takes the reins of what is traditionally the most contentious of the 12 appropriations panels that set federal budgets, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) subcommittee. Its portfolio includes NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.