Monday, March 4, 2013

Sequestration

It has been an accepted fact that basic research is something that only government can invest in and promote on a large scale since private industry needs commercial payoff relatively quickly. Our leadership in the world has depended on government investment in basic research. Today, however, the NIH budget stands at a woefully low level.

Lowest Investment
In constant dollars adjusted for inflation, the NIH budget in fiscal year 2012 is $4 billion less than it was in 2003 and is at the lowest level since 2001. The number of research grants funded by NIH has declined since 2004. In 2012 NIH funded 3,100 fewer grants than in 2004.


The sequestration promises to reduce the NIH budget even further. Currently, the NIH budget, which is spread out over all 50 states, is $30.7 billion. The Office of Management and Budget estimates that sequestration will reduce the NIH budget by 5.1%, resulting in a loss of $1.6 billion. This will bring NIH funding to an all time low.

Intelligence in the form of Politicians
The 21st century promises to be the century of scientific innovation, great leaps in medical and biological knowledge and the dominance of information technology. In 2011, the US spent 2.7% of its GDP on research and development, compared to 3.67% for Japan, 3.74% for South Korea, and 3.3% for Sweden. In order for the US to remain the leading center of innovation in the world, it has to invest in the future of scientific research and development. The last place we should be cutting funding is the NIH. But in order to maintain a sane and appropriate level of investment, we need politicians who have some working knowledge of basic science and an appreciation of how government spending on scientific research has and will continue to improve our lives and those of our children.