As expected, the $8.2 billion for extramural research that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) received from the 2009 stimulus act put many scientists and their staffs to work. But a congressional watchdog agency found it hard to be more specific about the impact of the controversial spending on the U.S. biomedical workforce.
When NIH received its 2-year windfall in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), NIH acting director Raynard Kington assured Congress that each grant would boost the economy by creating several jobs. The report last month from the Government Accountability Office (GAO)—requested by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) and committee member Representative Joe Barton (R-TX)—finds that Kington was at least partially correct.
The money supported an initial 12,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions in December 2009. That number grew for 9 months then leveled off to about 21,000 in June 2011, according to institutions' reports to a federal database. That works out to be about one FTE for each of the 21,500 grants NIH gave out. But because the jobs are reported quarterly, it's hard to calculate the overall total. NIH officials told GAO that they're still compiling jobs data; they believe the stimulus funds could eventually support 54,000 FTEs.