In a guest post on the Simply Statistics blog, Debashis Ghosh, chair of the Biostatistical Methods and Research Design study section at the National Institutes of Health, explains how the government shutdown is impacting NIH study sections, which "will likely have disastrous long-term effects on the state of biomedical and scientific research."
Study sections meet three times a year to review grant submissions to the NIH, but these meetings have been put on hold during the government closure.
"Yesterday, I was notified by NIH that the BMRD October meeting was cancelled and postponed until further notice," Ghosh says, adding that this session "is but one of 160 regular study sections and many of them would be meeting in October."
These cancellations have "many detrimental consequences," Ghosh says. Without study section review, grants cannot be evaluated and funded. "This lag in the funding timeline stalls research, and in scientific research a slow stall now is more disastrous in the long term," possibly resulting in layoffs for lab technicians and research associates who are funded by grants up for renewal, "as well as a hiring freeze for new lab personnel using newly funded grants."
Ultimately, Ghosh writes, "this delay and loss of labor will diminish the existing scientific knowledge base in the US, which leads to a loss of the competitive advantage we have enjoyed as a nation for decades in science."
In terms of the societal impact of the delay, Ghosh says that the findings from research grants could potentially benefit thousands of patients a year by increasing their survival or improving the quality of their lives. "In the starkest possible terms, more medical patients will die and suffer because the government shutdown is forcing the research that provides new methods of diagnosis and treatment to grind to a halt."
Meanwhile, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology is asking its members to enlist friends, family, and colleagues in a phone campaign to convince Congress to end the shutdown and restore funding to the NIH, NSF, and other science agencies.
FASEB has also put together a guide instructing researchers how to call into local talk radio shows, with talking points about the impact of the shutdown on biomedical research