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Help Fight The NIH Budget Cuts

Many of my regular readers may know that biomedical research in the United States is largely funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Please see this message from Dr. William Talman, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), about proposed spending cuts to the NIH budget. Grant funding from the NIH is already hard to come by, and the proposed budget cuts will make it even harder.

Whether you are a scientist, a student, or a member of the public interested in the future of science and medicine, I join with Dr. Talman in asking you to call your congressional representatives and ask them to oppose HR1. Also, if you have a blog I’d ask you to repost Dr. Talman’s call to action so that your readers can join in.

Dear Colleague,

For months the new House leadership has been promising to cut billions in federal funding in fiscal year (FY) 2011. Later this week the House will try to make the rhetoric a reality by voting on HR 1, a “continuing resolution” (CR) that would cut NIH funding by $1.6 billion (5.2%) BELOW the current level – reducing the budget for medical research to $29.4 billion!

We must rally everyone – researchers, trainees, lab personnel – in the scientific community to protest these draconian cuts. Please go to this FASEB link for instructions on how to call your Representative’s Washington, DC office today! Urge him/her to oppose the cuts to NIH and vote against HR 1. Once you’ve made the call, let us know how it went by sending a short email to the address provided in the call instructions and forward the alert link to your colleagues. We must explain to our Representatives how cuts to NIH will have a devastating impact on their constituents!


William T. Talman, MD
FASEB President

*This blog post was originally published at The Brain Confounds Everything*

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One Response to “Help Fight The NIH Budget Cuts”

  1. Ben says:

    I agree that NIH has the potential to be a relatively good return on investment, but the realities of the current budget crisis (i.e. an annual deficit that is much bigger than ALL non-defense discretionary spending) means that it’s going to be a hard sell. This is especially true when one considers that between 1998 and 2010 the NIH budget has risen from $13.6 billion to $30.9 billion (for reference, this is much faster than inflation, which would leave NIH with $17.9 billion a year). We should also keep in mind that it’s not entirely clear that this additional money is improving NIH outcomes. It’s obviously hard to discern accurately, but in many areas that NIH focuses the quality and cost of care have not changed substantively in the last 20 years and in others performance seems to be worse (quantity and quality of new drugs, student performance on international science-based questions, etc). There have certainly been some areas where they shine, but I doubt that they are still returning the estimated 25-40% ROI that was calculated in 2000 (when their budget was 1/2 what it is now).

    Regardless, lobbying the legislature to spare this program may not be a bad idea, but I think that we need to start thinking about proposing alternatives to “don’t cut any of the thing I like”. Right now, every congress person is being lobbied by special interests (like docs) to save or expand specific programs, but cuts are being proposed only in general. If we want to save a particular slice of the pie we’re going to have to start suggesting other places we can cut, not just demanding to be left alone. When you’re talking about closing a budget deficit that is 1.5x as big as all defense spending and 2x as big as all discretionary spending (it’s also bigger than either social security or medicare) it means cutting everywhere is the only real option… even with tax hikes in the equation. Docs need to recognize that perpetually shielding all the programs they like (especially Medicare and Medicaid) is completely unrealistic and borderline unethical. Docs should present a unified front: save NIH, but agree to real cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates, especially for procedures dominated by specialties with >250K average salaries. This will actually impact the budget in a substantive way, continue to fund science that has long-term benefits for health and cost, and make the whole health care system more viable in the coming years.

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