Obama Budget Calls for Sustained Investment in Research

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In his State of the Union address last month, President Barack Obama reaffirmed the prioritization of science and technology in his plans for the nation’s future. The President’s new economic plan calls for maintaining a commitment to funding research and development that can improve our quality of life.

Obama budget calls for sustained investment in research


The President urged Congress to continue funding scientific research, saying [1]:

Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don’t gut these investments in our budget. Don’t let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries.

Indeed, tomorrows advances in healthcare and medicine depend on today’s investments in biomedical research.

Joseph C. LaManna, PhD, President of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), supported the President’s focus on innovation [2]:

We enthusiastically support the President’s emphasis on innovation and join him in urging Congress to maintain the federal commitment to research. It is abundantly clear that research-based innovation has dramatically improved the quality of life for Americans and people around the world. Sustainable budgets allow scientists to pursue new ideas and address scientific challenges with increased sophistication. Our best hope for future progress remains a strong commitment to science and technology.

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) is the nation’s largest coalition of biomedical researchers, composed of 26 societies with more than 100,000 members. FASEB is recognized as the policy voice of biological and biomedical researchers. Celebrating 100 Years of Advancing the Life Sciences in 2012, FASEB is rededicating its efforts to advance health and well-being by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.

Three agencies are slated to receive a boost in funding. The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science budget would increase by 2.4% from $4.9 billion to $5 billion. The National Science Foundation (NSF) budget would receive a nearly 5% boost to $7.37 billion, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology would increase a whopping 13% to $860 million.

Flat budget for NIH

Unfortunately, the president’s FY 2013 budget proposal released last week would hold the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget at the current level of $30.86 billion [3], making 2013 the 10th year in a row that the NIH budget has not kept pace with biomedical research inflation. Indeed, accounting for inflation, the NIH is being funded at a level 20% below the budget set a decade ago.

In 2008, a study written by a consortium of seven institutions warned that flat funding of biomedical research is a threat to America’s health. By continuing to underfund biomedical research, we as a nation are losing a generation of promising researchers to other careers and other countries.

Investment in biomedical research has never been more important

As America struggles to recover from the recession, it’s important for our political leaders to remember that investment in biomedical research can play a key role in economic recovery and job growth.

Increased funding for biomedical research will cause grant agencies to lower award score thresholds and money will rapidly begin flowing to research programs. As the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds research at hospitals, medical centers and universities in every state, expanded research programs will create thousands of high-quality jobs and increase purchasing from largely American supply companies throughout the country.

Moreover, increased funding for biomedical research is an excellent investment in local economies. A recent study by Research!America found that health research accounted for only 5.5% of total healthcare spending [4]. Despite that small amount, every dollar invested in federal research spending has been calculated to generate a 220% return in total economic activity in communities that hosted funded projects [5].

And not to be forgotten, increased investment in biomedical research will improve the health for patients in the United States and around the world. On National Biomedical Research Day last year, we cited several “returns” on investment in biomedical research: increased life expectancy through the development of antibiotics, vaccines, treatments and medical devices; reduced disability in people over the age of 65; reduced rates of new diagnoses and deaths from all cancers combined; and elimination of many epidemic diseases. It is only from the continued investment in biomedical research that more effective cures and therapies will emerge.

References

  1. Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address. The White House. 2012 Jan 24.
  2. President Obama Calls for Sustained Investment in Research. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) press release. 2012 Jan 26.
  3. NIH Overview of FY 2012 President’s Budget. NIH Office of Budget. Accessed 2012 Feb 14.
  4. 2010 U.S. Investment in Health Research. Research!America. Accessed 2012 Feb 18.
  5. In Your Own Backyard: How NIH Funding Helps Your State’s Economy. Families USA. 2008 June.
About the Author

Walter Jessen is Principal at Highlight Health Media, which publishes Highlight HEALTH. He's also a senior writer at Highlight HEALTH.