A Plea to Soften NIH's Post-Stimulus Landing
Biomedicine may have done well so far in the economic downturn, but the largest coalition of U.S. biomedical researchers is warning of dire consequences if the National Institutes of Health doesn't continue to get hefty raises.
NIH’s $10.4 billion windfall in stimulus funding runs out in 2011.
Today, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
(FASEB) issued a report
claiming that the number of competing grants—essentially new
awards—will plunge about 40%, from 16,564 to 9850, if NIH's base budget stays
at the $31 billion requested by President Barack Obama for 2010. That
would put many scientists out of work, FASEB suggests. "We're going to
slow progress; we're going to end careers; we're going to be terribly
discouraging to young scientists," incoming FASEB President Mark Lively
told reporters at a press breakfast this morning.
FASEB calculates that NIH needs a 10% raise in 2011 and 3% above
inflation in subsequent years (or about 6% to 7%). That would bring its
budget to a stimulus-era level of $36 billion in 2012. The landing
could also be softened if investigators get more time to spend their
stimulus money, which NIH can do to some degree by giving them 1-year,
no-cost extensions, Lively said. Some lawmakers have also proposed
NIH's timeline for disbursing the stimulus.
FASEB's message will likely be well-received: Administration officials
and key lawmakers have both said that they share the concerns about NIH's
budget after the stimulus ends.
Lively also touched on the president's plan to double cancer research
at NIH over 8 years, which FASEB opposes because it believes basic science should be
supported "across the board." And he lamented the delay in naming a
permanent NIH director who could make the case for more NIH funding