By William (Bill) R. Brinkley, Ph.D., TAMEST’s 2012 President
Sometimes you find luck sitting by your side at the most opportune of moments. For example, what would you do if you suddenly found yourself seated next to a key member of the U.S. Congress on a two and a half hour flight to Washington, D.C.? Be prepared, it could happen to you!
If you are a frequent traveler like me, you probably prefer to read, daydream or sleep on most flights. But what would you do if you suddenly recognized that your seat mate was a VIP—say, a key member of the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives? You might recognize it as a terrific opportunity to put in a good word for particular issues of great importance to you or society. Say for instance, an increase in funding for biomedical research or pending legislation for another cause that might impact your future and that of your co-workers and colleagues.
This actually happened to me a few years ago as a biomedical researcher and president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) advocating for a campaign to double the funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). At the time, I was traveling to Washington, D.C. frequently to visit key members of the legislature to encourage support for the “doubling” as it came to be known. One key member of the House of Representatives, Congressman Tom DeLay was thought to be a hopeless holdout—but a key individual to get on our side. As the Majority Whip, DeLay earned the nickname “The Hammer” for his enforcement of party discipline in close votes and his reputation for wreaking political vengeance on opponents. After making numerous unsuccessful attempts to get an audience with DeLay, I finally gave up! Continue reading →
President Barack Obama unveiled the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative on Tuesday. Described in a White House press release as one of the administration’s “Grand Challenges,” the goal of the initiative is to bring private and public sector research together to accelerate the development and application of technology and research into the function of complex neural networks. President Obama laid the ground work for today’s announcement during his State of the Union address in January, calling for an increased investment in research to achieve “a level of research and development not seen since the height of the space race.” Continue reading →
As sequestration threatens to obstruct progress in biomedical and health research, members of the research community are continuing to speak out against these across-the-board spending cuts. Research!America Board member Larry Shapiro, MD, dean of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis’, shared his concerns in an article from the Associated Press.
At Washington University in St. Louis and other research institutions across the country, “automatic cuts are causing anxiety among young researchers who are wondering what career options they’ll have if the current economic climate becomes ‘the new normal,’” according to the article.
”This is all that’s being discussed in the hallways and over coffee,” Shapiro told the AP. He added that two genetics researchers recently decided to leave St. Louis and relocate their labs to the United Kingdom in this environment of diminished funding.
“Scientists are passionate about their work, and they’ll go where they have the best opportunity to accomplish it,” Shapiro said in the story.
With reduced funding for young scientists and innovative projects, senior researchers warn that the U.S. will experience a “brain drain,” with promising young scientists heading overseas where funding for research is becoming more abundant. Shapiro isn’t the only academic leader worried about federal funding cuts; read the comments of others in academia in the article.
Majority of Americans Doubt Congress and White House Can Resolve Budget Problems and Avoid Fiscal Cliff
Poll Reveals Deep Concerns Among Americans about Impact of Spending Cuts to Medical Research
Alexandria, Va.—December 13, 2012—Nearly 60% of Americans are skeptical that Congress and the White House will reach an agreement that will avoid the fiscal cliff, according to a new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America. More than 80% of Republicans, nearly 40% of Democrats and 65% of Independents say they are “not too confident” or “not at all confident” current negotiations will result in a deal. The findings reveal growing doubt among many Americans that Congress and the Administration will be able to make a deal that would avoid tax increases for most Americans and major funding cuts for federal agencies, including those that are responsible for funding medical research.
“Congress and the Administration must make bold decisions to address our nation’s deficit, but cutting funding for research should not be one of them,” said Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley. “We cannot afford to drain the research pipeline as other countries challenge our world leadership in science and innovation.”
An overwhelming majority of Americans (83%) say that medical research is important to reducing health care costs. And an even larger percentage (87%) believe that it is important that our nation support research that focuses on improving how our health care system is functioning.
Even in a challenging fiscal environment, Americans continue to place a high priority on biomedical and health research. Upon learning that the percentage of government spending allocated for biomedical and health research is roughly 1.5%, almost half of Americans (48%) believed that it was not enough. In fact, 54% would be willing to pay $1 per week more in taxes if they were certain that all of the money would be spent for additional medical research. This comes as no surprise, as more than half (55%) of Americans do not believe that the U.S. is making enough progress in medical research.
“Our polling underscores support for a stronger investment in research — there’s no doubt that people want a cure, sooner rather than later, for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer and so many other diseases and disabilities,” added Woolley. “In a time when difficult decisions have to be made, Americans overwhelmingly believe research and innovation should be prioritized.”
Other poll highlights include:
- More than three-quarters of Americans (78%) say that it is important that the U.S. work to improve health globally through research and innovation.
- Nearly 70% of Americans believe that the federal government should increase support for programs and policies that would increase the number of young Americans who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
- 66% of Americans, say they would be willing to share personal health information to advance medical research assuming that appropriate privacy protections were used.
- 68% of Americans say it’s important that the federal research and development tax credit is made permanent.
The National Public Opinion Poll was conducted online in December 2012 by JZ Analytics for Research!America. The poll had a sample size of 1,000, with a theoretical sampling error of +/- 3.2%. To view the poll, visit: http://www.researchamerica.org/uploads/December2012pollslides.pdf
About the National Public Opinion Poll
Research!America began commissioning polls in 1992 in an effort to understand public support for medical, health and scientific research. The results of Research!America’s polls have proven invaluable to our alliance of member organizations and, in turn, to the fulfillment of our mission to make research to improve health a higher national priority. In response to growing usage and demand, Research!America has expanded its portfolio, which includes state, national and issue-specific polling. Poll data is available by request or at www.researchamerica.org.
Research!America is the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations representing 125 million Americans. Visit www.researchamerica.org.
Pending Budget Cuts will Further Jeopardize Global Leadership in Research and Innovation
WASHINGTON, DC—October 25, 2012—Biomedical and health research and development (R&D) spending from all sources declined by more than $4 billion or 3% between FY10 and FY11 according to Research!America’s 2011 U.S. Investment in Health Research report. This represents the first drop in overall spending since Research!America began compiling the data in 2002.
The decline follows an uptick in research funding attributed to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which allocated $10.4 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over two fiscal years (2009-2010). The overall downward trend in R&D spending is coming at a time when other nations are ramping up their own investments in research, and meanwhile, pending across-the-board budget cuts (sequestration) could reduce federal biomedical and health research funding by 8%-10% or more.
“Insufficient funding, coupled with deep budget cuts under sequestration, could be devastating for research,” said Research!America’s chair, former Congressman John E. Porter. “Our global competitiveness hinges on a robust investment that will support bright scientific minds, create high-quality jobs and provide a catalyst for private sector innovation.”
Research!America’s 2011 U.S. Investment in Health Research report shows varying levels of health research funding in the private and public sector. For example, federal funding for research totaled $39.5 billion in FY11, a 14% decrease from the previous year’s total of $45.9 billion. Agency funds were distributed across all 50 states to hospitals, universities, independent research institutes and small businesses. Under sequestration, the NIH would lose $2.53 billion in funding in FY13.
“As R&D spending abroad outpaces federal investments here at home, U.S. companies will set up shop in countries with stronger policies to support research,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “We cannot afford to become complacent as cures for Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and other serious health threats remain a priority for every American.”
Overall, private industry has continually increased investments in R&D — a total of $77.6 billion in 2011, a 1.4% increase from 2010, despite inflationary pressure and the economic recession. The pharmaceutical industry increased its investment to $38.5 billion, a 3% increase from the previous year. In contrast, biotechnology investment declined by nearly $800 million, or 3%. The medical device and technology sector slightly increased investment in research, totaling $9.8 billion. Currently, more than 80% of R&D among PhRMA member companies is conducted in the United States, but R&D spending abroad has more than doubled over the past decade.
Aside from federal and industry investment, other institutions spent $19.1 billion on health research, an increase of about 5% from the previous year. Universities increased spending of institutional funds for research to $11.9 billion in 2010, a 6% increase. Philanthropic spending decreased slightly, while voluntary health groups increased investment in research by 15%, or $131 million, from the prior year.
According to funding projections in the report, the research investment landscape could worsen in 2013 and over the next decade. The scenario is different in other countries; as just one example, China has identified biotechnology as one of the seven “strategic and emerging (SEI) pillar” industries and has pledged to invest $308.5 billion in biotechnology over the next 5 years. Overall, the report provides analysis that outlines health research as one of the underpinnings of the U.S. economy and a key to improving the health of Americans.
Research!America has issued estimates of the US investment in health research since 2002. All reports in the series are available online at www.researchamerica.org/research_investment.