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From One Pot to Another

Science lobbyists are pushing back against proposed funding increases for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) programs, ScienceInsider reports.

Both the SBIR and STTR programs are funded through a tax on the research budgets of 11 federal agencies, and a proposal making its way through Congress suggests increasing that set-aside from 3 percent to 6 percent by 2028 for SBIR in the Senate version of the bill or to 4.5 percent by 2022 in House of Representatives version. The current STTR set-aside, currently 0.45 percent, would become 1 percent in the Senate bill and 0.6 percent in the House bill, according to ScienceInsider.

While critics acknowledge the importance of translating academic research into products and services, they fret that it'll be at basic science's expense. "[A] mandatory increase in the SBIR/STTR allocation as proposed … will result in fewer research opportunities for investigators," some 77 professional societies and academic organizations wrote in letter to legislators.

Jennifer Zeitzer from the Federation of American Societies in Experimental Biology adds that going above and beyond next year's already required increase to 3.2 percent is unnecessary as the number of SBIR applications at NIH fell between 2011 and 2015.

However, Jere Glover from the Small Business Technology Council argues that the academic community isn't thinking long term and that these small businesses provide job opportunities for their students. "We're part of the pipeline," he says. "There are a fixed number of positions for professors, so most of their students are going to have to work outside academia. And it's most likely that they go to a small business, since they create two-thirds of all jobs."