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Short on Funds

Researchers, even ones who have been continuously funded by the US National Institutes of Health for decades, are holding their labs together with string, NPR's Richard Harris reports.

Baylor College of Medicine's Robert Waterland opened his lab 10 years ago with NIH money to study obesity, but now he's finding himself short on funds, like a number of other researchers, NPR says. It calculated that 16 percent of scientists — or about 3,500 researchers —with R01 grants in 2012 lost them in 2013. Thirty-five of those 3,500 are at Baylor, NPR adds.

"If I don't get another NIH grant, say, within the next year, then I will have to let some people go in my lab. And that's a fact," Waterland says. "And there could be a point at which I'm not able to keep a lab."

Baylor, NPR says, is feeling the brunt of the declining NIH budget as its piece of the pie has fallen from $252 million in 2002 to $184 million in 2013.

While labor economist Paula Stephan at Georgia State University says that this funding system is unstable and need to be changed to find that stability, researchers are mostly hoping for more money, which, given the current political climate, may not happen, NPR notes.