NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A proposed funding increase of 3.2 percent for the National Institutes of Health in the White House's 2011 budget proposal is not enough to offset the rising cost of research and could ultimately lead to a reduction in the number of grants awarded, according to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
FASEB said in a statement Wednesday that a proposed increase for NIH to $32.9 billion from $31.9 billion in the 2010 budget "will not be sufficient to sustain progress toward all of the emerging opportunities currently supported by the FY 2010 budget."
The advocacy group said that NIH's budget projections do not account for the rising cost of research and could potentially stall many new programs that were started with the $10 billion NIH received in stimulus funds in 2009 and 2010.
“Based on projections from the President’s budget summary, we will see a significant decline in the number of grants in FY 2011 at the proposed funding level,” said Howard Garrison, Director of FASEB’s Office of Public Affairs.
To avoid weakened support for biomedical research at NIH, FASEB recommended that Congress appropriate $37 billion for the institutes next year, which would represent a 16 percent increase over 2010.
FASEB said that NIH's projection that the average cost of research grants will rise by 1.4 percent does not jibe with recent historic growth rates, which, due to inflationary factors and an expanding scope of work, it sees as more than triple that level.
According to FASEB's projections, the total number of research project grants could drop from 39,579 in 2010 to 35,202 in 2011 under the proposed budget, and the overall purchasing power at NIH will shrink from $36.4 billion to $32.2 billion.
"We strongly suspect that the situation will turn out to be much worse," FASEB argued. When rising cost factors are included, the group projects that the number of research project grants will decline by at least 15.5 percent.
"While it is clear the President recognized the importance of investing in biomedical research, based on the 3.2 percent increase he proposed in his FY 2011 budget, the supplemental appropriations the agency received in FY 2010 has created a wealth of emerging opportunities that cannot be ignored," FASEB President Mark Lively said.
In a report released this week, FASEB noted that research funding faces a "potential crisis" as funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act draws near its end.
"A reversion back to pre-ARRA funding levels will result in lost jobs, terminated projects, and delays in life-saving research," FASEB said.
In order to avoid the "looming cliff" of a post-ARRA funding slump, FASEB recommended that Congress either raise the base appropriations for NIH in FY 2011 and beyond or allow grantees to spend the grant money over a longer period of time.
"Used singly or in combination, these strategies can alleviate the most harmful consequences of 'the cliff,'" FASEB said.