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FASEB Seeks Budget Bump at NIH, Fed Agencies to Regain Lost Ground

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – For the US to maintain its global standing as the leader in fueling biomedical, agricultural, and energy innovations, federal funding for research next year will need to increase, even if only by a small amount, according to the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology.

Just as the White House is putting the finishing touches on its federal budget plan for fiscal year 2014, which is set to be released next week, FASEB has recommended that the US National Institutes of Health receive a budget of at least $32 billion, which would be an increase of $1.3 billion, or 4 percent, over last year.

That bump would enable NIH to regain much of the spending power it has lost over the past few years when flat budgets ($30.7 billion in FY2012 and $30.8 billion in FY2011) that failed to keep pace with inflation eroded the agency's budget and affected its capabilities to fund science.

"Rising costs of research, the increasing complexity of the scientific enterprise, and a loss of purchasing power at NIH due to flat budgets have made it increasingly competitive for individual investigators to obtain funding. Today, only one in six grant applications will be supported, the lowest rate in NIH history," FASEB said.

"Increasing the NIH budget to $32.0 billion would provide the agency with an additional $1.36 billion, which could restore funding for R01 grants (multi-year awards to investigators for specified projects) back to the level achieved in 2003 and support an additional 1,700 researchers while still providing much needed financial support for other critical areas of the NIH portfolio," FASEB added.

Also in its new budget recommendations, FASEB pointed out that the US share of global investment in research and development dropped from 38 percent to 31 percent between 1999 and 2009, and that the country should increase science spending "to ensure that the path-breaking discoveries and innovative processes of the 21st century do not belong to our competitors."

FASEB also wants to increase funding for the National Science Foundation to $7.4 billion, an increase of $304 million, or around 4 percent, that FASEB said would support an additional 324 investigators.

The US Department of Energy's Office of Science, which supports the DOE Joint Genome Institute, should see a funding boost to at least $5.1 billion next year, as its budget has been static at $4.9 billion since 2011, FASEB recommended.

The association also advised that the Department of Agriculture should receive a minimum of $325 million for its Agriculture Food and Research Initiative, an increase of $58.4 million, or about 22 percent, that would provide funding for 100 more researchers.

FASEB also has proposed that the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical and Prosthetic Research Program should receive $621 million in the budget, an increase of around $40 million , or 7 percent, that would restore the spending power of this program, which has had a flat budget of $580 million since 2011.

One of the projects this VA program funds is the Million Veteran Program, which has already enrolled 100,000 volunteers to donate tissue and blood samples for an effort to create a database of information about genetics, medical history, and military combat experiences.