NIH needs $37 billion in 2011

On Jan. 28, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and its member societies, including ASBMB, recommended that the NIH budget be increased to $37 billion during 2011.  As the research community awaits the Monday release of the President Obama’s budget request to Congress, FASEB and its members believe the biomedical research community needs a large budget increase to sustain research funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery act, known as the stimulus bill.

FASEB’s recommendation underscores its concern about a potential decline in biomedical research after 2010.  As part of the stimulus bill, the NIH received $10 billion to be spent between 2009 and 2010.  Since the NIH is on pace to spend roughly half of its stimulus money in 2010, FASEB and its members estimate the NIH will spend around $35 billion in 2010.

Adding 2010 stimulus money into the NIH budget and accounting for the high average rate of biomedical inflation, FASEB’s request grows the NIH budget in constant dollars by 3 percent.

But because stimulus money was appropriated in 2009, some interpret FASEB’s recommendation as a 19 percent increase over the $31 billion 2010 NIH budget.

FASEB is not alone in advocating for a large NIH budget because of concerns about a post-stimulus budgetary “cliff.”  Other advocacy groups, such as Research!America, are recommending $35 billion for 2011.  And over the past month, NIH Director Francis Collins has warned about the potential for “severe disruptions” in biomedical research after stimulus money expires

Biomedical research advocates are recommending continuing stimulus-level NIH funding, in part, because it restores the NIH budget’s historical value.  Over the past seven years, inflation has eroded the NIH’s budget by 15 percent, Collins said in a recent interview.  Adjusting for inflation, the $27 billion NIH budget from 2003 is equivalent to a $35.4 billion budget in 2010.

Of course, FASEB’s recommendation comes at a challenging fiscal time.  With a projected federal deficit of $1.35 trillion in 2010, Obama has called for a freeze on nondiscretionary spending, the portion of the federal budget that includes science agency budgets.  As predictions about the president’s budget are not optimistic, it will be up to Congress to maintain the health of U.S. biomedical research.

More information about FASEB and ASBMB’s recommendation for the NIH budget is available in FASEB’s Annual Federal Funding Report.

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