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Investigators Lost by Sequester

The number of US National Institutes of Health-funded investigators fell by about 1,000 last year, according to calculations by Jeremy Berg, associate senior vice-chancellor for science strategy and planning at the University of Pittsburgh. The NIH budget was trimmed some 5 percent, or about $1.55 billion, by the sequester.

As Berg writes in ASBMB Today, this is a more substantial drop than the one that occurred between fiscal years 2012 and 2013, when about 150 fewer investigators were funded. "Given the investments these investigators and society have made in developing their scientific skills, these data provide a quantitative measure of the inefficiencies created by erratic support for biomedical research," Berg says. Berg is the former director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

For his calculations, Berg drew on data from NIH's RePORTER for R-series grants, though he excluded the conference R-13 grants.

Between fiscal years 2012 and 2013, Berg notes that the amount of funding for these mechanisms fell by $1.2 billion, leading both the number of total funded investigators to fall and also the average amount of funding per investigator to decrease.

Based on previous trends, Berg calculates that about 30 percent of those who would have been funded if not for the sequester would have been new investigators.

"Thus, the sequester may have resulted in the loss of about 200 new investigators who normally would have received their first major NIH funding and may have interrupted funding for more than 400 more established investigators," he adds.