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Not Just More Funding Needed

The US research enterprise and federal investment into that enterprise is getting smaller, says the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

"Unfortunately, the research enterprise that has yielded so much in the past and that offers so much promise for the future is now under tremendous strain," FASEB says in a new report. "Research budgets have not kept pace with expanding opportunities and rising costs."

These complaints, ScienceInsider's Jocelyn Kaiser notes, are hardly new, as the report repeats the criticism that research funding hasn't kept up with the rate of inflation, leading to a 34 percent drop in R01 grants since 2003.

FASEB, she adds, puts forth a few suggestions, both old and new, to address this issue. Not only does it say that Congress should spend more money — and be predictable about its spending — on biomedical research and the National Institutes of Health, it also says that agency should be able to carry over its unspent funds from one year to the next, rather than losing what it hadn't yet spent.

Additionally, FASEB argues that researchers should be less dependent on grants to support their salaries, that the length of some grants should be extended so researchers can focus more on science than grant-writing, and that incoming graduate students should be better prepared for non-academic job tracks.

Though, as Kaiser notes, the FASEB report repeats previous conclusions, Howard Garrison, director of FASEB’s Office of Public Affairs, tells her that it is a new sort of report for the group as it "recognizes that an increase in funding is not the way out of this dilemma."