For biomedical researchers, the budget fight in Washington, D.C., is getting personal. President Obama's budget includes some actual increases in funding for science, including a $1 billion hike to the National Institutes of Health. But Republicans in the House of Representatives, eager to fulfill their deficit-cutting pledge, want to cut the NIH budget instead.
The Obama administration pegged NIH funding for fiscal 2012 at $32.3 billion, up 3.3 percent from the current $31.3 billion, The Hill reports. The National Science Foundation would get 13 percent more funding, with an increase to $7.8 billion from $6.9 billion. At the NIH, some 83 percent of spending would be allocated to programs at hospitals and universities, with the rest funding research work at NIH's facilities in Bethesda, MD.
The president says some R&D spending should be immune from budget cuts, because research is an investment in the future that "creates and sustains companies, products and jobs," the budget proposal says. In contrast, other government programs would sustain up to $90 billion in spending cuts in the president's budget.
Meanwhile, House Republicans have proposed a $1 billion cut to the NIH budget, effective for the remainder of this fiscal year. The pullback would force labs around the country to lay off workers and stop research in its tracks, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. Sen. Bob Casey, who in the past has advocated increases to research funding, wrote House leaders to complain, citing studies showing a one dollar increase in public basic science funding stimulates $3.15 in pharma investment. Each dollar of NIH funding generates twice as much in state economic output, he wrote.
As the Washington Post points out, even the president's budget represents NIH funding that's effectively flat, considering the 3.5 percent inflation rate in biomedical research. Agency officials told the Post that, in terms of purchasing power, the administration's NIH budget is roughly equal to 2000 levels.