:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 12-17-2014
In 2013 the buzzword for the state of affairs for scientific funding in the US was sequestration. That year saw huge hits to American government funding of the NIH and other scientific endeavors that severely hampered research activities throughout the country. In 2014, there was a slight increase in life science funding, however, it was not enough to put American research back on track to where the NIH hoped it would be. While scientists remain hopeful that 2015 will be the year of recovery, a bill released last week by the Senate Spending Subcommittee seems to suggest otherwise.
While organizations such as NASA and the National Science Foundation will be receiving increases of $364 million and $172 million respectively, the NIH will be receiving an increase of $150 million which falls quite a bit short of what is needed to fund America’s largest health sciences granting agency. To further add insult to injury, the 0.5% increase still leaves the agency with less funding than it had prior to the 2013 sequestration.
The few research areas that will benefit from the 2015 budget include $1.2 Billion for the National Institute of Aging and $238 Million for Ebola research.
Some other notable areas of funding include:
- $787 Million for AIDS prevention and research
- $352 Million for Cancer prevention and control
- $140 Million for diabetes
- $130 Million for heart and stroke
- $47 Million for Autism research
- $13.8 Million for Heritable disease research
- $3.3 Million for Alzheimer’s research
:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-12-2014
For as long as most of us can remember, America has remained at the top of the scientific food chain. American scientists were generously funded, supported by robust government policies and able to secure world-class training at the best scientific institutions. All that is about to change, however, as many economists are predicting that within 5 years, China will be spending more on scientific R&D than their American counterparts.
According to the OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2014, China’s total R&D budget match the US’s $400 Billion scientific budget by the year 2016 and will grow to as much as $600 Billion by 2024. In contrast, the American R&D budget is only predicted to grow by 19%, (from approximately $410 Billion to $490 Billion), during that same period.
Despite this positive outlook for China, several critics have claimed that China’s fast assent into the scientific limelight comes at the expense of research quality. Such assertions have been supported by the disproportional rate of scientific paper retraction on behalf of Chinese scientists when compared to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, since the Chinese funding sources give preference to the quantity of scientific papers published when evaluating scientific merit, the rash of retractions will not likely abate any time soon.
It is also interesting to note that the majority of Chinese funding is dedicated to building infrastructure with much less spent on bench research itself. This has led to a situation where there is a disconnect between the number of well-equipped labs in China and the quality of research papers coming out of those labs.
So should we be afraid that soon, many of our best scientists will likely explore greener pastures in China or is it possible that China’s bark is much bigger than its bite? Only time will tell.
:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 10-15-2014
In a rare distinction for one university, neuroimaging world leaders and USC Professors Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson will receive two major research center awards to advance their exploration of the human brain.
Toga and Thompson each will establish a Center of Excellence under a National Institutes of Health initiative to mine discoveries from the vast and exponentially growing amounts of data created by imaging science, genetic sequencing and many other biomedical fields.
The awards total $12 million and $11 million for Toga and Thompson, respectively, over four years. NIH is funding several Centers of Excellence, including the two at USC, under its Big Data to Knowledge initiative.
:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 09-17-2014
Like most of my friends, I fell in love with science at a very early age and decided to live my dream by becoming a scientist. If you are reading this post, chances are that you too share this feeling and are passionate about science. Unfortunately, there are many passion-killers out there and the reality of living life as a scientists is too much to bear for many seasoned researchers. In a very interesting article published in NPR last week, author Richard Harris describes the struggle of two men who had successful science careers and the reasons they left the lab behind to pursue other interests.
I urge you to read the original article on NPR. You will be introduced to former Professor, Ian Glomski who had a well funded lab at the University of Virginia. Dr. Glomski’s was funded to do predictable and somewhat boring research. Like the rest of us, he too entered science to fulfill his passion and his line of research was not answering that call. So Ian asked the NIH to fund a revolutionary idea that he hoped would rock his world of research. Unfortunately, his ideas were never funded and with his loss of funding, down went his science career.
You will also read about Dr. Randen Patterson who also tried, unsuccessfully, to receive funding for unconventional, yet potentially ground breaking research. When his idea was shot down, he too left the university, never to set foot in an academic lab again.
The article laments a funding system that fits scientists safely into a standardized square box and penalizes those who dare propose to do something different. Every scientist dreams about conducting Nobel-Prize-worthy research. Every scientist is desperately seeking that Eureka! moment. We all entered science to fulfill that spark. Shouldn’t our funding systems be geared towards fanning the flames of creativity rather than extinguishing the flames in a drought of funding?
:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 04-29-2014
According to a new policy released earlier this month, the National Institute of Health (NIH) will now allow unsuccessful applicants to resubmit their application for the next application round without including any new information in the resubmitted grant.
The NIH claimed that due to the funding crisis, many meritorious applications, which would have otherwise been funded, were turned down. According to the old policy, the rejected applications could not be resubmitted in their original form and would have had to be reworked before being resubmitted. The effect of this policy was that applicants would have to add new material in the resubmitted grant, despite the fact that the application was strong to begin with. Furthermore, young investigators, already dejected by the original grant rejection, were more apt to leave their positions rather than having to redo and resubmit their original grant. By allowing scientists to resubmit their original grant without significant changes, the NIH will significantly increase the number of meritorious applications in subsequent rounds.
Until October 2008, the NIH did not have resubmission rules governing the grant application process. In a sweeping change in 2008, the NIH placed restrictions on the type of content applicants were allowed to resubmit and instituted a two strike rule that meant that the applicant needed to substantially re-design the project rather than simply change the application in response to previous reviews. The new policy reverses that ruling and will hopefully encourage more young investigators to pursue their dreams without the fear of rejection or failure.