Restimulating the Party


    Picture from Science Magazine, 2013

    Two years ago, during the political standoff that saw the Federal Government shut down, Congress agreed to an across-the-board budget cut of $38 billion domestically, known as Sequestration. The fall out included a $1.7 billion cut to the annual budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $700 million form the National Science Foundation (NSF). These agencies fund the majority of university level laboratory research, which bring money to principle investigators who can then lead scientists, such as yours truly, to do the work. Luckily my PI and every other scientist in our department weathered this storm and I was able to stay on in the lab. Our funding comes mostly from non-government, non-profit agencies which are unaffected by federal budgets. In the months following the announcement of these cuts I remember seeing a chorus of lamentation from academic scientists in the news, blogs and online forums as they saw their research money slashed and their labs shut down. The director of the NIH, Francis Collins, went into a frenzy of activity begging for Congress and the Senate to put a end to these budget cuts. Now, in 2015, Congress has announced a $2 billion increase for the NIH and $200 million for the NSF in the next fiscal year. They have also set aside increased budgets for other medical agencies, including the FDA, CDC and new initiatives, such as Precision Medicine, BRAIN initiative and antibiotics initiative. This rise in federal funding has not been seen for over a decade and has been heralded as a sign of come back for biomedical research. However, the stimulus does not allow the NIH to keep up with inflation and, according to Francis Collins, does not help replace the 22% loss in purchasing power that the agency has suffered since 2003. The upshot is that there are still people out there in Washington's Senate and House who believe in continuing our cause to push basic academic biomedical research. The downshot is that public funding for our field is unlikely to ever return to its glory day. Perhaps then, the answer to all our funding problems, not surprisingly, lies in the illusive private sector industry.

    From STAT news online: