Whats Happening in Congress this Week? Nothing to help the NIH with Sequestration Cuts

What will Congress be addressing this week? Short answer, nothing but scandals. This week congress will hold meetings on Benghazi, IRS, Immigration and repealing “Obamacare” (again).

Meanwhile the reality of the sequestration cuts are starting to take hold. The numbers are in on the extent of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget cuts for 2013, ScienceInsider reported. As expected, due to the sequester the agency’s budget fell by $1.55 billion to a total of $29.15 billion for the year, a 5 percent cut. To meet the new budget NIH is eliminating 1,357 grants, including 703 that would have been for new competing grants.

NIH Director Francis Collins took to Twitter to express his frustration with the cuts, soliciting researchers to tell their tales of the sequester’s impact under the hashtag #NIHSequesterimpact. “I’ll be sharing some of your stories to try to turn this mess around,” he tweeted.

Click here to read up on the #NIHSequesterimpact discussion.

Watch NIH Director Francis Collin's TED talk: We Need Better Drugs — Now

NIH will try to keep the size of the average award consistent with 2012; it will not award inflationary increases for future years. The agency also expects to trim continuing grants. Grants that were cut up to 10% earlier this year because of budget uncertainty “may be partially restored,” but probably not to the original commitment level, NIH's notice says.

What is the impact of the reduced grants? While the budget is in limbo, many talented students, postdoctoral fellows, and research scientists who might work on these projects – some of them just beginning their careers in science – will have to find other work. Some will go to industry, and some may leave science for another field. Some of them won’t come back.

As the U.S. cuts its funding for science research, countries such as South Korea, Japan, Brazil, India and China are increasing theirs. Even countries such as Germany and Britain, which are facing budget problems of their own, are increasing their research funding, NIH's Collins said.

 

Graduate students who come to the U.S. from other countries to do research are already seeing what happens when the U.S. cuts its science budgets. The chances of getting a grant from the NIH have dropped from 1 in 3 to 1 in 6 since 2003, Collins said. The sequester will make that number drop even more.

“I worry deeply that we are putting an entire generation of scientists at risk by the very significant difficulty they see in obtaining support,” Collins said.

Investment into research is a driver for our economy. NIH-funded discoveries contribute to the nation's booming biomedical industry, a sector that exports $90 billion a year in goods and services annually and employs a million citizens. The government's $4-billion investment in the Human Genome Project, for example, helped create $796 billion in economic growth from 2000 to 2010, the NIH estimated. More generally, every $1 of NIH funding generates $2.20 in economic growth, the government said.

So as our place as the world leader in the biomedical industry continues to slip, instead of coming together to solve the problem and developing a plan to move forward. Congress continues to take on political posturing games.

This is a conversation, not an editorial. Did I forget something, get it wrong or do you agree? Please Comment, Like, Re-Tweet and Share

 

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