Appropriations season —
what we want and how to help

Published March 01 2018

As the calendar turns to March, appropriations season begins on Capitol Hill and advocates from every constituency kick their efforts into high gear. The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is no different, and we enter this spring with an invigorated interest in increasing the research budgets at the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For fiscal year 2019, we are calling on Congress to increase federal investments in the life sciences by 8 percent at all agencies. Particularly of interest to the ASBMB community is that this would mean an increase of $2.6 billion to the NIH, $600 million to the NSF and $430 million to the DOE’s Office of Science.

The increases we are looking for extend beyond the annual biomedical research and development price index inflationary rate of 2.2 percent. This accounts for inflation and also provides new dollars to increase funding rates across all three agencies. These increases are critical not only to ongoing research efforts but also to create funding opportunities for new scientists beginning their careers, a constituency of the research community the NIH has been looking to support since the introduction of its Next Generation Researcher Initiative last year.

Funding increases at this level are not easy to come by. First, legislators responsible for determining budget levels must account for mandated caps to federal spending that have been in place since 2011. These caps limit the total amount of federal spending authorized in a particular year for all discretionary funding. The ASBMB has long been a proud supporter and leader of Nondefense Discretionary United, a coalition of federal, state and local organizations that have called for the raising of caps on nondefense discretionary federal spending, where the overwhelming majority of federal funds for science come from. The ASBMB, NDD United and thousands of other groups have been working for years with congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to #RaiseTheCaps successfully three times, most recently in the current budget deal, which has raised spending caps into fiscal year 2019 — and we must continue to do so to ensure there is room in the federal budget for increases in science investments.

Legislators also must understand that an increased investment in science is vital to their constituents and to the nation. This is where we need your help. We hope you will participate in the Public Affairs Advisory Committee’s March 9 training webinar on how to write an op-ed piece (check the policy blog for details). Legislators and their staffs read local papers to stay in touch with the issues important to their constituents back home. There is no better way to build support for investments in your work than telling the people and politicians in your community about the impact your research might have on their lives. We urge ASBMB members across the country to draft and publish opinion pieces in local newspapers during the month of March.

Writing an op-ed letter too much work? Visit for sample tweets and letters that you can personalize and share to tell your representatives about the support you need. Share your experiences with us at ASBMB Public Affairs. We’ll feature your tweets, letters and op-eds on our blog and spread the word about the important role you play in helping us to secure these much-needed funding increases this year. We look forward to working with you.

Benjamin Corb Benjamin Corb is director of public affairs at ASBMB. Follow him on Twitter.