December 2009

The More Things Change… Appropriations Bills Still Hanging Fire

Unfortunately, NIH’s stimulus funding also has caught the attention of Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, ranking minority member of the House Commerce Committee, which oversees NIH. He wrote to NIH Director Francis Collins on Sept. 24, asking for information on a number of NIH-funded grants, including one studying Thai “sex workers” and one on patterns of drug use in Brazilian “rave culture.” He has also written to the Government Accountability Office asking that NIH’s use of the $10 billion in stimulus money be examined. He wants to know if the process and criteria for funding grants under the stimulus program were different from the ways NIH usually funds grants and how many jobs were “created or maintained” (one of the objectives of the stimulus package).

On this note, President Obama indicated Sept. 30, during a visit to NIH, that more than $5 billion in NIH stimulus money had been awarded, funding 12,000 new grants and creating “tens of thousands of jobs conducting research, manufacturing and supplying medical equipment and building and modernizing laboratories and research facilities all across America.”

National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation bill has passed both houses of Congress, but a conference has yet to be called. The House has approved a funding level for NSF of $6.937 billion, a $447 million increase over 2009. The Senate level is $20 million less, at $6.917 billion. The Senate debated the bill for almost a month before passage. One item of contention was an amendment offered by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to eliminate $9 million for funding of political science research. However, this was defeated, and the bill ended up passing the Senate handily.

Peter Farnham (pfarnham@asbmb.org) is director of public affairs at ASBMB.

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