News from the Hill

The NIH is cruising. Now let’s boost the NSF.

Benjamin Corb
Feb. 1, 2018

Since fiscal 2015, the National Institutes of Health budget has increased 13 percent, from $30.3 billion to $34.1 billion. We are thrilled to see NIH funding on the rise, especially after nearly a decade of flat budgets that, when adjusted for inflation, eroded the NIH’s purchasing power by 25 percent. Current proposals for fiscal 2018 will likely lead to another 3 percent increase, so we are cautiously optimistic that members of Congress from both parties recognize the need for robust and sustained investment in the NIH.

Sometimes, though, we wonder if Congress realizes how the research enterprise works. While the NIH wins support, other critically important science agencies in the government don’t receive the same attention and are in need of funding increases.

The National Science Foundation funds basic biological research, work that often builds a foundation for the groundbreaking, lifesaving discoveries made at the NIH. The NSF is also the second highest funder of our members (after the NIH) according to recent surveys of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology membership. And while the NIH budget has grown significantly, the NSF budget has not. Since fiscal 2015, the NSF budget only has risen from $7.3 billion to $7.4 billion, a 4 percent increase. It is a mistake not to fund the two agencies proportionally.

Partnerships between the NIH and the NSF include the BRAIN Initiative and the Precision Medicine Initiative. Many NIH-funded investigators have received grants by building off NSF-funded basic research. For example, the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology that is breaking ground in the life sciences has its roots in NSF-funded research.

As Congress receives the fiscal 2019 budget from President Donald Trump and begins its appropriations process, the ASBMB will host a Capitol Hill briefing to educate lawmakers on the NSF’s important role in supporting and advancing life science research. This is part of our ongoing work to influence the funding process to benefit all our members.

In advocating for the NSF, the ASBMB remains committed to fighting for a diverse, sustainable and successful American research enterprise.

Hill Day

It’s that time of year again. The Public Affairs Advisory Committee is preparing for its annual day of Capitol Hill visits, when scientists from across the country come to Washington, D.C., to receive training from the ASBMB’s public affairs staff and take part in meetings with congressional representatives to talk about the importance of robust federal investments in science. This year’s Hill Day will be April 12. We are accepting applications for participants on the Hill Day website.

Advocacy opportunities

As we prepare for the release of President Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget, the Public Affairs Advisory Committee is launching our first 2018 grass-roots advocacy campaign. In February and March, we ask our members to take to social media to tell your elected representatives how the president’s budget proposal would affect your science and your lab. In addition to tweets and Facebook posts, we’ll create and circulate a petition calling on Congress and the president to provide the scientific community with the investments we need to keep the United States the global leader in biomedical research and innovation. Click here for details.

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Benjamin Corb

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

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