Cuts to NIH Budget On Horizon?

Please avoid bashing Republicans, Democrats, and individual politicians. It is likely politicians of all stripes will ensure scientific research funding is protected. Give credit where credit is due. Science is a common good.

This is yet another public policy topic which would get very different general public survey results depending upon how the survey question is worded:

(A) “Are you in favor of reducing the federal government’s role in funding the National Institute of Health?”

(B) “Are you in favor of reduced funding of the National Institute of Health’s medical research toward cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and communicable diseases?”


As always “controls” or comparison points are helpful. Compare the NIH budget to that of the military, for education. That changes the set point dramatically.

The NIH vs FDA funding difference is interesting. It looked to me like it’s maybe a basic vs applied shift. NASA vs EPA is just weird but reflects the presidents thinking.

NSF is the one closest to me. Although I don’t have any NSF grants, most of my field including local collaborators are funded via NSF. Hopefully Congress can restore some funding to areas hardest hit. I know it’s a lot of taxpayer money but we live in a science and technology driven world.

So, is your lab planning a bake sale anytime soon?

You’d be in a worse position if you were trying to get funding for a satellite that accurately measured surface and atmospheric temperatures…

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Franklin Roosevelt was so skilled at explaining to the general public why various types of federal spending were important—and in the average citizen’s best interest. (People usually associate his “fireside chats” with WWII but he used his radio addresses for all sorts of topics over his four terms in office.)

Of course, we can all think of a great many reasons why such an approach would be far more challenging today. Yet, we have so many powerful communications technologies available to us today that FDR didn’t have. How can leaders in science, technology, and public health do a better job of communicating to the average taxpayer why their dollars can be a wise investment in a better society for everyone?

Humans have always been swayed by immediacy, so it is hard to justify programs that won’t produce benefits for many years compared to programs that help people now. I think it would also help if we stressed the importance of publicly funded research which has many advantages over privately funded research. Public research can help find treatments for diseases that don’t have a big payday attached to them, such as malaria. Do you want biomedical research guided by shareholders, or by sick people? If the latter, you want publicly funded research.