Who should be funding
biomedical research?

The federal government’s investment in research through the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and other agencies is indispensible, but political maneuvering in Washington, D.C., has made for a challenging fiscal environment. The result has been a decade of nearly stagnant funding and decreased chances of successfully funding a research project.

Nonfederal funding mechanisms for research, such as philanthropic investments and crowdsourced funding, have increased in popularity, but are they right for you and your lab? Do they provide a reliable funding stream? A discussion prompted by those questions will be the basis of the Public Affairs Advisory Committee’s session at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting later this month in Boston.

Venkatesh Narayanamurti of Harvard University will be one of the panelists. In addition to many other accolades, Narayanamurti is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he played a critical role in the academy’s 2014 report “ Restoring the foundation: the vital role of research in preserving the American dream.” The report offers recommendations to establish long-term sustainability in the U.S. research enterprise and ensure the federal government remains the foundational investor in scientific research. An engineer by training, Narayanamurti has made many significant contributions to the fields of phonon optics and semiconductor nanostructures.

When federal funds aren’t available, some scientists turn to the public for funding. Jai Ranganathan, another panelist, is executive director of #SciFund Challenge, which helps researchers crowdsource funding. Seeking to improve outreach, #SciFund Challenge trains scientists to communicate directly with the public about the value of the research they conduct. Furthermore, the group trains scientists to use these newfound outreach skills to carry out crowdfunding campaigns to fund their research. Ranganathan is a conservation biologist working at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

Claire Pomeroy, president of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, also will be a panelist. The Lasker Foundation supports biomedical research through recognition of excellent science as well as outstanding advocacy and public education efforts. In addition to her work at the Lasker Foundation, Pomeroy is a clinician with a lab researching infectious disease. She is also a staunch advocate for patients with HIV/AIDS and has been active in a variety of healthcare policy issues.

These panelists represent just some of the possible funding sources available to scientists today, and we hope you will join the conversation. The session — titled “Who Should be Funding Biomedical Research?” — will be held at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, March 29, in room 253A of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Photo of Chris Pickett Chris Pickett is a policy analyst at the ASBMB.

Benjamin Corb Benjamin Corb is director of public affairs at ASBMB.