The coalition plans grassroots and Capitol Hill lobbying campaigns to push NIH budget to $30 billion in Fiscal 2007
By Ted Agres | January 23, 2006
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) should receive $30 billion in Fiscal 2007, a 5% increase of $1.43 billion over the current year?s funding of $28.57 billion, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) recommends in its annual funding report released last week (January 20). FASEB officials also outlined plans for a major lobbying campaign to press for increased biomedical funding for NIH and other Federal agencies for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, 2006.
In previous years, FASEB had recommended NIH budget increases of around 10%. The proposed 5% increase, slightly more than this year?s rate of biomedical inflation -- estimated by NIH at 3.2% -- was ?realistic? and would be sufficient to support new research opportunities without being ?so out of touch with present-day realities that people would think we are living in an alternate universe,? FASEB President Bruce R. Bistrian said in response to a question from The Scientist during a press conference last Friday (January 20). But, he noted, ?it?s not an optimistic time.?
For the past three years, NIH?s budget has failed to keep pace with inflation and was cut for the first time in more than three decades this year, after Congress imposed a 1% across the board reduction on discretionary spending last month. This flat funding has kept the size and number of research grants stagnant, making it increasingly difficult for new researchers to get funding. ?We will lose a generation of researchers,? Bistrian told reporters. ?If not a full generation, we will lose several years? worth, and that?s an important gap.?
FASEB and other research and patient advocacy groups will form a ?coalition of the willing? to lobby lawmakers and state officials about the importance of biomedical research, Bistrian said. FASEB is working with organizations in the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research Funding, a coalition of several hundred associations, societies, medical schools, and institutes that support increased NIH funding. The goal is to recruit scientists and patients to visit lawmakers in their home districts, write letters, and conduct other lobbying activities. ?We have to move from inside the beltway to their home base,? said Jon Retzlaff, FASEB?s legislative relations director.
Governors must also realize the important role that biomedical research plays in their states, said FASEB President-elect Leo T. Furcht, head of the University of Minnesota?s Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. ?A governor understands that research funding is an economic issue for his or her own state,? Furcht said. ?To the degree that?s compromised, even for private institutions, there are jobs lost, innovation lost, new companies that aren?t going to be started.?
A push is also needed in to identify and encourage new ?champions? in Congress to support biomedical research, said Howard Garrison, FASEB?s public affairs director. Added attention must also be paid to members of the House and Senate budget committees who can dictate how much money the appropriations committees have to allocate to various agencies.
FASEB is also recommending $6.4 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), a 14.3% increase over this year?s $5.6 billion, which was far short of the $8.5 billion authorized ? but never appropriated ? by the nonbinding NSF Doubling Act of 2002. In keeping with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, FASEB also recommends $4.15 billion for the Dept. of Energy?s Office of Science, a 15.6% increase over this year?s $3.59 billion, to support research in genomics, environmental science, and other areas.
The president?s Fiscal 2007 budget request is expected to be released Feb. 6, and will be followed by weeks of committee hearings. But because this is an election year, Congress will be on a shortened schedule, further reducing the chances of having a budget in place before Fiscal 2007 year begins on Oct. 1.
By Ted Agres
Links within this article
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
FASEB annual funding report
T Agres, ?Advocates plan budget push,? The Scientist, January 6, 2006.
Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research Funding
National Science Foundation Act of 2002, PL 107-368, Dec. 19, 2002.
Energy Policy Act of 2005, PL 109-58, July 29, 2005.
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