Category Archives: Science Funding

FASEB Report: Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Sciences

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) has released a new report, Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Sciences: A Framework for Discussion, detailing FASEB’s most recent analysis of the problems/issues facing the biomedical research enterprise.

From the executive summary: “FASEB….is concerned about the future of biological and medical research. Inconsistent investment policies, growing demands for research funding, and outdated policies are jeopardizing current and future progress in this important area of research. This is a serious problem for the nation, and requires immediate attention and action.”

Options for mitigating the multitude of problems discussed in the FASEB report include: 1: Maximize research funding; 2: Optimize funding mechanisms; and 3: Improve workforce utilization and training.

ScienceInsider writes, “Although it echoes previous reports, FASEB’s analysis breaks new ground for the society because it provides “a comprehensive view of the problem and recognizes that an increase in funding is not the way out of this dilemma,” says Howard Garrison, director of FASEB’s Office of Public Affairs. He said FASEB’s board now hopes to collect feedback from its membership.”


Action Alert! Flat Funding for NIH is a Budget Cut – Urge Your Representative to Support NIH by Signing the McKinley-Davis-Carson-King Letter for Medical Research

From Research!America:

“Given that the budget allocated to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds the non-commercial, basic medical research required to develop new medical treatments and cures, is actually lower this year than it was in 2012, it has never been more important to fight for NIH funding. To help ensure that this unique federal agency receives the resources needed to support research at universities, hospitals and other research institutions across the country, Representatives Peter King (R-NY), Susan Davis (D-CA), Andre Carson (D-IN), and David McKinley (R-WV) are circulating a sign-on letter in support of critically needed funding for NIH.”

In addition to the NIH budget being lower this year than in 2012, as a recent NatureEditorial points out, due to inflation and continued flat funding, the NIH’s budget has decreased by 10% in the last 10 years! Inflation for biomedical research is high, which means flat funding is actually a funding cut when inflation is taken into account. For example, while President Obama requested a 0.7% increase in his FY2015 budget for the NIH, inflation is projected to rise by 2.2% in 2014, translating into  an actual 1.5% cut for NIH spending. Likewise, by FY2019 the Department of Health and Human Services is projecting biomedical inflation to be at 3.3%, which would mean Congress would have to approve at least a 3.3% budget increase just for the NIH’s purchasing power to remain flat!

While these numbers are quite disheartening, a bipartisan group of Congress members are now recognizing what flat funding for NIH actually means. The McKinley-Davis-Carson-King Letter for Medical Research currently being circulated reads, “As Members of Congress who value the critical role played by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in better health outcomes, job creation, education, and economic growth, we respectfully request that the NIH receives at least $32 billion for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. We feel this amount is the minimum level of funding needed to reflect the rising costs associated with biomedical research. At a time of unprecedented scientific opportunity, it is critical that the United States make forward-thinking investments that promote medical breakthroughs as well as our international leadership in biomedical research.”

The McKinley-Davis-Carson-King Letter for Medical Research’s $32 billion ask for FY2015 would be an additional 5.5% budget increase over Obama’s request. Please consider contacting your US House of Representative to urge them to sign on to the letter.

Crossposted from SciencePolitics.

Devastating: NIH Releases Guidance on Extramural Activities Following the Government Shutdown

Update: Due to overwhelming negative (and quite angry) feedback received by the NIH from researchers across the country, the NIH released a “Revised Guidance on Resumption of NIH Extramural Activities Following the Recent Lapse in Appropriations” on Oct. 22, 2013. “Responding to input from applicants and reviewers, NIH has reevaluated the plans for rescheduling initial peer review meetings that were cancelled due to the government shutdown. NIH will now reschedule most of the 200+ missed peer review meetings so that most applications are able to be considered at January 2014 Council meetings.” This is wonderful news, and also a great example of how change can occur if enough people make their voices heard! From Dr. Sally Rockey’s blog: “My colleagues and I have heard from many of you since Friday, expressing significant concerns regarding delaying the review of applications to the May council round due to the Government shutdown. Applicants faced with a four month delay in a funding decision described serious consequences to their research programs. Additionally, many reviewers contacted us saying they are ready and willing to do anything to get these reviews done. In light of this feedback, our review staff have risen to the challenge, and will be working with reviewers to go the extra mile in exceptionally creative ways to reschedule as many of the 200+ missed October review meetings as possible.” Dr. Rockey is the NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research.

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New Science Advocacy Opportunity from Research!America

Research!America recently announced their Inaugural Advocacy Academy. This opportunity is open to postdoctoral fellows and is designed to expose early career scientists to science advocacy,  outreach, and policy and includes a paid trip to Washington DC! I have participated in other advocacy trainings (through ASBMB and ASPET – both of these are open to graduate students also) and have found the experience both rewarding and educational. While we all may rather stay in the research lab conducting experiments, I believe it is our duty as scientists to educate the public and our elected officials as to issues involving science education, funding, policy etc.

Research!America’s announcements is as follows:

Research!America is pleased to announce an exciting new program to introduce and engage early-career scientists in research advocacy and science policy. The 2013 Research!America Advocacy Academy is a unique opportunity for postdoctoral fellows in the health and biomedical sciences to learn about how to best incorporate advocacy and effective communications into their role as a scientist.

The 2013 class of up to 12 Research!America advocates will participate in a two-day Washington, DC, program from September 11-12, 2013. Participants will learn about the federal budget and appropriations process, tools for effective science communication and outreach as well as how to engage with elected representatives on scientific and research issues. The program includes visiting Capitol Hill to meet with policy makers and congressional staff members, providing participants with a first-hand experience advocating for health research. Rounding out this unique Washington experience, participants will attend Research!America’s National Health Research Forum where top leaders in government, industry, academia and patient organizations engage in moderated conversations on issues of importance to the research ecosystem.

Upon completion of the program, participants will become Science Advocates for Research!America. Advocates will remain engaged with Research!America staff, receive ongoing action alerts and learn about ways to involve their home institution’s research community in effective science advocacy.

All travel expenses (transportation, lodging and meals) will be provided and arranged by Research!America through an educational grant provided by Pfizer. This year’s program is limited to 12 exceptional postdoctoral researchers with a dedicated interest in becoming active advocates for science.

Program overview

Tuesday, September 10, 2013: Evening arrivals; hotel accommodations provided

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: Advocacy Academy Program

  • Policy & legislative overview
  • Advocating for science on Capitol Hill
  • Effective science communication & engagement with the media
  • Preparing for meetings with policy makers
  • Career Enhancement: Roundtable discussion with scientific journal editors
  • Reception and dinner with Research!America Board members and leaders

Thursday, September 12, 2013: Research!America Advocacy Day

  • Meet with Members of Congress and/or staff on Capitol Hill Attend Research!America’s National Health Research Forum
  • Late afternoon departures


    You must have completed your MD, PhD or equivalent doctoral degree and currently hold an appointment as a postdoctoral research fellow at one of Research!America’s member organizations (please click here for a list of eligible academic universities, hospitals, and independent research institutes).

    Application Process

    Application Deadline: July 3, 2013, 5 p.m. EDT

    Please submit the following items to with the subject line ‘Advocacy Academy Application – Your Name.’ All materials must be received by 5 p.m. EDT on July 3, 2013.

    • A curriculum vitae/resume (2 pg. maximum)
    • A statement of interest in the program, which includes your desire to be involved in science policy and advocacy activities, and a summary of relevant activities or employment outside of the classroom or laboratory (1 pg. maximum).
    • A letter of recommendation from your current Principal Investigator or research leader.

    For any questions or more information on the program, please contact Adam M. Katz, Policy and Advocacy Specialist

    A selection committee will review submissions and extend invitations to 12 exceptional candidates. If accepted, participants are expected to obtain appropriate authorization to travel to Washington and participate in the program. Research!America will coordinate all travel arrangements with participants.

Recap of the book club discussion on Marketing for Scientists

Last Thursday five of us (Abbie, Phil, Sara, Aomawa, and I) met at Schultzy’s to talk about Marc Kuchner’s book Marketing for Scientists: How to Shine in Tough Times. The main feature of the book was what scientists can learn from looking at science from a marketing standpoint. I can see many scientists cringe at reading the word ‘marketing’ used in context of science. And all of us who were at the book club agreed. To varying degrees we all felt uncomfortable with the idea of marketing ourselves, our research, or science in general. To clarify what he meant by ‘marketing’ Kuchner defined it early on as, “the craft of seeing things from other people’s perspectives, understanding their wants and needs, and finding ways to meet them.” It doesn’t sound so bad if you put it that way, and we all agreed that framing our scientific endeavors in terms of this definition marketing can help us communicate our science effectively and help us build fruitful and long lasting scientific relationships.

The author Marc Kuchner is an astrophysicist who works as a staff scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. What makes Kuchner unique is that he’s also a country music songwriter. Many of his anecdotes naturally relate to his early experiences visiting Nashville and trying to get his songs picked up by musicians and connecting them with the experiences of an early or mid-career scientist trying to establish a career in science. These stories, intermingled with advice on how to improve our website, grant writing, conference, etc,  made the book very readable, and many of us at the book club found it a nice break from the dense writing of scientific articles.

After discussing the book for a couple hours, jumping from one part to another, we realized that because the book covered a wide range of topics, we all got something different out of the book. To give a taste of what we talked about, we discussed about following up with fellow colleagues after meeting them at a conference, writing grants for science funding, creating our own Signature Research Idea (SRI), making our own logos (maybe), revamping our websites, and much more. The book approached all these different parts of scientific life by framing either ourselves, our tools and questions, our proposals, or our websites as our products, which we provide to our consumers, the people we wish to interact with, and asking the question, “What’s in it for the consumer?” We already do this when we try to give interesting talks or write clear results in our papers that we hope can be of help for other colleagues. The book just asks us to take it further, perhaps a bit beyond our comfort zone.

The book could have used a bit more proofreading (a number of typos), and there were a couple advices that seemed to go beyond what the five of us would be willing to do, such as one on giving talks and anticipating negative preconceptions that the audience may have of us at the beginning of our talk and acting or saying things to break those stereotypes. We thought it was disingenuous to do so, especially if we weren’t being ourselves when combating the stereotypes. But overall, I think we all thought that the book was helpful and useful. Given it’s title, I was a bit reluctant to pick up the book and read it, but now that I’ve read it through, I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a way of looking at what we do as scientists.

Do you have any book suggestions for the next book club?

Three Representatives Vie to Lead House Science Panel

As with every election cycle, changes often occur in the make-up of the Committees in the House and Senate. According to a ScienceInsider analysis, a quarter of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology will either be retiring or lost their bid for reelection this election cycle. Additionally, Representative Ralph M. Hall (R-TX) must step down as Chairman of the committee due to term-limits established by current House rules. This year, three Representatives have announced their candidacy for chairman of the committee. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) is currently considered the favorite to replace Representative Hall. The other two Representatives are Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). ScienceInsider interviewed each of the candidates, find the transcripts of their interviews here.

It is important to consider the role of the Science and Technology Committee and the influence it has on the Appropriations Committee and how it may influence how scientists secure funding and perform research in the United States. Here are a few questions to consider:

1.What qualifications should members of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology have?

2.What additional qualifications should the committee chairman have?

3.How will the committee members and chair’s outlook on science and technology affect the functioning of the committee?

4.  How might the Committee on Science and Technology affect the future of science funding?


Sequestration and the federal budget

Most of the political news coverage that I’ve heard recently has been on the presidential race and what each candidate says about each and every topic, including science. The impending sequestration may have a larger effect on science and science budgets than who gets elected in November if sequestration takes effect in January 2013.

When President Obama signed a stop-gap measure last August to raise the debt-ceiling, the law required Congress to agree on a budget deal that achieves $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by January 2013. If such a bill isn’t passed by January 2, then automatic cuts across defense and discretionary domestic spending will be made. According to a report published by the Office of Management and Budget and as covered by both Science magazine and the Atlantic, the sequestration would mean that all science budgets will see an automatic cut (~8.2%) in funding across the board in January 2013 if Congress is unable to agree on a plan to cut the federal deficit. What does that amount to? A list from the Science article summarizes the amounts:

  • At the National Institutes of Health (NIH), authorized spending would drop by more than $2.5 billion, to about $28.3 billion, according to the report.
  • The National Science Foundation would see a $586 million cut to its overall budget authority, which currently is $7.14 billion.
  • A $400 million reduction would reduce the budget of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science to about $4.5 billion.
  • NASA’s science programs would drop by $417 million to about $4.7 billion, and its Exploration account would fall by $309 million to about $3.5 billion.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s science and technology account would see a $65 million cut to about $730 million.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research, operations, and facilities account would drop $257 million to about $2.9 billion.
  • The U.S. Geological Survey would get an $88 million cut to about $1 billion.
  • The cuts would be somewhat deeper—9.4%—for defense research programs.

As the White House report explains, “The specter of harmful across-the-board cuts to defense and nondefense programs was intended to drive both sides to compromise. The sequestration itself was never intended to be implemented. The Administration strongly believes that sequestration is a bad policy, and that Congress can and should take action to avoid it by passing a comprehensive and balanced deficit reduction package.”

There are plans to push back the impending sequestration, such as the continuing resolution “Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013″, H. J. Res. 117. It passed the House on September 13 and now moves to the Senate floor. The resolution allows most federal departments and programs to operate at a 0.612% increase over the FY2012 budget until March 2013. Either way the FY2013 starts October 1, so if a bill isn’t passed by then, programs will have to operate not knowing how much funding they will receive for their projects.