Alex at the Daily Transcript has a great post discussing an editorial by Robert A. Weinberg about the consequences of funding priorities. Here’s the short version by Weinberg:
The funding policies of the NIH have made it increasingly difficult for young researchers to procure research funds. This threatens to drive a whole generation of young people away from careers in basic biomedical research.
Read Alex’s entire post for a very good discussion of the Weinberg editorial.
Unfortunately, all I can add is that things are in fact as bad as Alex claims–or worse. Here’s some observations that show just how bad the funding situation in the life sciences is:
- Funding rates in most areas are down to 10-15%. NIH isn’t releasing annual figures; instead, they’re releasing funding rates averaged over five years. The last time this happened was in the early 80s when biology took a massive hit.
- The only areas receiving significant funding are HIV, influeza, and ‘biopreparedness.’ Because NIH funding has either flat-lined or shrunk, depending on the institute, most other areas are experiencing significant cuts.
- In talking with study section members, because there is a perception of very limited funds, there is a bias towards established researchers (even in the R01 grants). The thinking is that if these researchers lose their grant–which is often a competitive renewal, and thus represents the ‘next step’ in a particular vein of research–established research groups will have to shut down, and will be unable to start up again. This makes it all the harder for younger researchers to catch a break.
- Related to the previous point, study sections and panels are becoming very, very conservative, which also means younger researchers, who have less extensive track records are less likely to receive funding.
- Finally, the conservatism is also manifesting itself in the types of proposals selected. Proposals that are farther away from the ‘core activities’ of a given study section or panel are less likely to receive funding since these proposals are not seen as ‘essential.’
Maybe there are others who have conflicting information, but each of these points has been confirmed by multiple people who are very involved in the funding process.
This shit didn’t happen when Democrats ran things….