On March 27, 19 students and postdocs joined the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Public Affairs Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C., to meet with more than 60 congressional offices and advocate for basic research funding and biomedical-related legislation. This year represents the fourth annual ASBMB Student/Postdoc Hill Day, and every year we refine our message to Congress. Here are some of the issues the Hill Day participants addressed this year.
Strong, sustained funding for the National Institutes of Health
Since 2008, the National Institutes of Health’s funding levels have increased— but at a rate lower than that of inflation. As a result, the purchasing power of the NIH has dropped steadily. Feast-or-famine funding at the NIH is highly disruptive to training, careers and long-range research projects. Sustained funding for the NIH is critical if researchers hope to continue their work. This year, the Hill Day participants brought a message to Congress that addressed this. ASBMB is calling for $32 billion in funding for the NIH for FY13 with a move to reach $35 billion by FY15. This plan will provide the NIH and biomedical researchers with predictable NIH funding to maximize our nation’s long-term return on its investment in research.
The positive economic impact of an investment in biomedical research
All you have to do is turn on the news today and you’ll quickly see that the economy is on everyone’s mind. Unemployment remains high, and the country is wondering how we will turn this economic downturn around. During Hill Day, ASBMB members showed their elected officials how investing in biomedical research not only is an investment in the overall health of our nation but also an investment that results in millions of jobs. It’s easy to show that areas such as Boston, San Francisco and North Carolina’s Research Triangle are reaping the benefits of research funding, but many members of Congress are surprised to see the significant economic impact research has throughout the country. Take Kansas, for instance. The state received $136.4 million from the NIH in 2011 (1). This funding has an economic effect that reaches far beyond the individual labs it goes to, creating more than 15,000 new jobs and producing $182 million in new business activity in Kansas (2). The positive economic effect of the research enterprise is a message that carries significant weight on both sides of the aisle.
Support for legislation that benefits biomedical researchers
While NIH funding is always the main topic of discussion on Hill Day, there are several pieces of legislation that have been put forward in the 112th Congress that would have positive effects on the biomedical research community. In both the U.S. House and Senate, there are several bills that propose tax credits for costs associated with biomedical or life-science research. The Stem Cell Research Advancement Act would allow the use of federal funding on research using human embryonic stem cells.
The Stopping American-Trained Ph.D.s from Leaving Our Economy Act, otherwise known as the STAPLE Act, proposes immigration reforms that would allow students who earn science, technology, engineering or math Ph.D.s to continue to work in America. The Hill Day participants highlighted bills such as these in their meetings to try to garner further support for them.
The visits to the Hill are part of an ongoing education strategy directed by ASBMB’s PAAC. Visit our website or contact our offices if you would like to learn how you can be a part of these efforts.
- 1. Budget data obtained from the NIH Research Portfolio website: http://report.nih.gov/index.aspx.
- 2. Statics based on 2007 data from “In Your Own Backyard: How NIH Funding Helps Your State’s Economy” (2008). Families USA: Washington, D.C.
Julie McClure (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the science policy fellow at ASBMB.