As the calendar year winds down and the holiday season approaches, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Office of Public Affairs is reflecting on 2011 and looking ahead. As tradition dictates, we have put together our own wish list of sorts for 2012 in the hope that our names are on the “nice” list and that we’ll receive everything we ask for.
A workable budget for FY12
After multiple continuing resolutions that allowed the government to keep functioning past the beginning of the fiscal year, the FY11 budget was approved in the 11th hour, narrowly averting government shutdown. While the final budget deal resulted in $38 billion in spending cuts for FY11, science-funding agencies escaped relatively unscathed, receiving only minor budget reductions. Unfortunately, FY12 has started down an all-too-familiar path with the passage of two continuing resolutions since the beginning of FY12 on Oct. 1. Next year, the country would appreciate a budget before the fiscal year is half over. And if Congress would fully support science funding agencies, that sure would make those at ASBMB happy.
Open-minded and responsive NIH leadership
In 2011, there was a lot of discussion about the formation of a new National Institutes of Health center, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. While NIH leadership was strongly supportive of NCATS, its purpose, structure and funding were widely debated within the scientific community, with many researchers questioning whether the center would pull the focus and funding away from the NIH’s core mission of supporting basic research. Recently, the NIH has begun to look for solutions to continue to fund outstanding scientific research in the face of a flat or, more likely, reduced budget. In an October blog post, Sally Rockey, deputy director of the Office of Extramural Research, requested suggestions on how to manage NIH resources in times of fiscal austerity. While we know there is no perfect solution, this year we ask all members of the research, administrative and legislative communities to come together with a certain willingness to compromise so that the basic research enterprise as a whole can continue to progress.
Increased communication about science by ASBMB members
This year we hosted two Hill Days, during which 25 students, postdocs and primary investigators came to Washington to meet with their representatives and advocate for biomedical research. In 2012, we will continue to raise awareness about the importance of basic research to Congress and the public at large by providing you, our members, with information about opportunities to interact with your elected officials in your hometowns. We’d like to ask all members of ASBMB to reach out to colleagues, legislators and even neighbors to garner support for basic research funding. Improve your communication skills by participating in the 2012 Hill Day or consider attending the ASBMB special seminar at the 2012 Experimental Biology meeting. This year’s topic is communicating science to the public.
That the ‘super committee’ will play nice
While FY12 funding is in the forefront of everyone’s mind, we also have to think about the long haul. The Budget Control Act of 2011 raised the debt ceiling but also called for the formation of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, otherwise known as the super committee, which is charged with finding $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years. The super committee recommendations were due Nov. 23, and a full congressional vote must occur by Dec. 23 to avoid across-the-board budget cuts to all discretionary spending. (Scan the QR code of visit http://bit.ly/vCnLwR for update to this story.) Santa, if you can only bring us one thing on our list this year, this would probably be it.
Julie McClure (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a science policy fellow at ASBMB.