Sequestration. A word that has driven fear into the hearts and wallets of many Americans following the recent national election. In the United States federal budget, the sequester or sequestration refers to budget cuts to particular categories of federal spending that began on March 1, 2013 as an austerity fiscal policy (see Wikipedia for a more detailed explanation).The sequester is expected to cut approximately $85.4 Billion dollars during the 2013 fiscal year. Major programs such as Medicare and Social Security will be greatly affected, but how will the cuts affect the life science industry and academia? Will every day researchers feel the effects of the huge reduction in the national budget? According to those in the “know,” sequestration is a word to fear among life scientists.
Burrill & Company, recently reported that the NIH is expected to lose $1.6 Billion in funding and have the number of grants it issues reduced by 2,000. Considering that the NIH awards 50,000 grants a year or 300,000 researchers, this 4% cut to their funding budget may mean that 12,000 labs will have to search for a new source of funds or risk losing their projects.
The Coalition for the Life Sciences has accentuated the effects of the cuts even more by pointing out that In eight states, cuts will exceed $100 million. According to the coalition:
Labs will shut down, scientists will be laid off, and local businesses that support research centers will close
A very scary thought indeed!
Several weeks ago, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski and NIH director, Francis Collins, discussed the potential impact of the sequester in a video that can be seen on the NIH website. Collins told the audience that sequestration will have far reaching negative effects on the great work that the NIH does in every state around the US. Francis pointed out that the effects will not only be felt by the scientific community, but by pateints and families who look forward to ground breaking research in the hope that it will ultimately find a cure for their particular disease.
Not everyone however, will be disappointed by the effects of sequestration. The popular blog, Retraction Watch , whose business it is to report on bad science, expects that drastic reductions in research budgets will lead to corner cutting by scientists who have less money to work with and an upswing in retractions being reported among the scientific community.
So what can you do about it? How can you help save your lab from being affected by sequestration? Now that the elections are over and sequestraion is in full swing, lobbying our politicians and letter writing campaigns may be your best hope. The Coallition for the Life Sciences recomends sending a letter to Congress and has provided a sample template for you to use.
What are your thoughts on sequestration? What have you heard from your colleagues and PIs about the looming impact of sequestartion? Please share. We’d love to hear the word “on the street.”