Monday, February 06, 2006

The budget situation for the NIH appears grim

From ScienceNOW:
In stark contrast to his initiative for physical sciences [ScienceNOW, 1 February and 3 February], President Bush today proposed a budget freeze for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2007, holding its funding steady at $28.6 billion. The proposal, part of the President's overall budget request to Congress, is drawing concern and even outrage from biomedical research advocacy groups, who worry that NIH is losing ground after its budget was doubled from 1999 to 2003. Now the budget proposal, which curbs domestic discretionary spending while boosting funding for national defense, must wind its way through Congress before being approved in some form later this year.

"We're not in a position to do as much as many of us would like," said Michael Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, at a budget briefing today. When asked why biomedicine was not included among the science agencies funded by the president's American Competitiveness Initiative, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni explained that the physical sciences are "complementary" to NIH's mission. "I don't think biomedicine is necessarily less urgent ... but you have to make choices that are not necessarily going to make everybody happy."

Within the $28.587 million requested for NIH in 2007, only biodefense would garner a significant increase--$110 million for a new biodefense fund to help universities and companies commercialize countermeasures. Another $49 million would expand an initiative on genes, environment, and health, and $15 million would fund a new bridge award for young investigators. But overall, all but one of NIH's 27 institutes and centers will get a slight cut under the president's plan. In parallel, success rates on grants--an investigator's odds of winning funding for a grant proposal--would remain at 19% in 2007, down from 22% in 2005.

Advocacy groups warn about the danger to U.S. biomedical research from a flat budget coming on the heels of the first cut to NIH in 36 years. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Washington, D.C., expressed "disappointment and outrage," saying the president's NIH request will slow research and "discourage the best and brightest from scientific careers." And while Patrick White�of the Association of American Universities praises the "incredible" boost proposed for the physical sciences, he says the "hard freeze" for NIH�"begins the undoubling of the NIH budget." A coalition of advocacy groups wants Congress to give NIH a 5% increase.
It looks as though the President's promise to boost science funding only applies to some areas and not others. While I'm glad that more is being allocated to the NSF, between the flat NIH budget and this administration's politicization of science, particularly stem cell research, we as a nation are taking a real risk of slowing down the progress in biomedical research that we have made over the last decade. With a flat budget for the foreseeable future, which translates in practical terms in to small yearly budget cuts, it looks as though we're going back to the bad old days of the early 1990's as far as biomedical research funding goes.

4 example(s) of insolence returned:


At 2/07/2006 12:13 AM, Blogger Bartholomew Cubbins said...

I was thinking that given the administration's push for faith-based charities to take a larger role in social services, maybe W's intimating that they take up the slack in research too. Maybe the Catholic church or Ralph Reed ought to consider ponying up a few 100 Gs to get me a nice new lifetime fluorimeter and a tech for a couple of years. I would cite anyone's God (this one, this one, this one, or this one) for a bit of funding.

 

At 2/07/2006 11:44 AM, Blogger Mike the Mad Biologist said...

"With a flat budget for the foreseeable future, which translates in practical terms in to small yearly budget cuts, it looks as though we're going back to the bad old days of the early 1990's as far as biomedical research funding goes."

Like father, like son...

 

At 2/07/2006 5:04 PM, Blogger Abel PharmBoy said...

So, as I sit here with my box of 10 grants to review for study section, I agonize over which one or two I will fight for. At least four deserve to be funded but, alas, study section panelists are not permitted to use the "f" word.

I would love to see W's defense budget proposal be debated by an NIH study section.

 

At 2/07/2006 9:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


So, as I sit here with my box of 10 grants to review for study section, I agonize over which one or two I will fight for. At least four deserve to be funded but, alas, study section panelists are not permitted to use the "f" word.

I would love to see W's defense budget proposal be debated by an NIH study section.

Loser! I only have eight grants to review. Funding rates are also lower, and rates for new investigators fell to the single digits last round (I believe). As far as the budget proposal being debated by an NIH study section, I'm all in favor, since then we would konw that at least 3 people had read it, which might be an improvement on what will happen in Congress.

 

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