Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

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This trend has continued until the present.

Despite the NIH’s budget remaining stagnant for years, not even compensating for inflation, Bush has decided to wield the presidential veto against an increase in just $1 billion for the next fiscal year. The bill also contained new open-access legislation– a mandate for any government-funded manuscript to be submitted to PubMed for full text open-access within one year. The veto seemed more a response to the budget increase rather than the open access issue, which is not surprising given Bush’s own fiscal, uh, issues. But, for comparison, the US spends $43 billionon military intelligence alone

There is an excellent editorial in The Journal of Life Sciences which sums up my feelings quite well.

There are few things that give us a better return on our healthcare investment dollars than increased NIH funding. For every dollar the government spends on the NIH, private industry will, in general, spend two more to develop and commercialize the early research generated from the NIH investment. That research leads to new treatments for acute and chronic diseases that today cost Americans dearly. A $30 billion investment in NIH today seems a prudent choice when one considers that American households spend $582 billion annually on healthcare to fight those same diseases NIH funding is designed to tackle.

It is important to understand what a continued decline in NIH funding will mean for our aging U.S. population. Our national health expenditures are projected to exceed $4 trillion by 2015; the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease among baby boomers alone is expected to cost the federal government more than $1 trillion. And of course, as anyone who has watched a loved one suffer from a chronic disease can tell us, the cost to society cannot be measured only in dollars.


  1. #1 Tom B
    November 15, 2007

    This is appalling. Are their enough GOP lawmakers with bad “tickers” like Cheney that there may be a possibility of an override?

  2. #2 Chad
    November 15, 2007

    The problem is that the research NIH typically funds is at least one step away from the “healthcare” everyone seems to be so fond of wanting to fix these days. If those people could only realize that what the NIH funds really does make a difference in the healthcare they receive there might be a chance that NIH will get a nice boost to their budget. I don’t think it will ever receive the funding it truly deserves, but that’s just my little ol’ opinion.

  3. #3 Jacob Wintersmith
    November 15, 2007

    Umm… I’m rather confused by your statement that “the NIH’s budget [has remained] stagnant for years, not even compensating for inflation”. Doesn’t that graph show the NIH budget growing at about ~14% annually from 1999 through 2003. And in 2004, the last year shown, it appears that NIH got a 2% increase, which accounting for inflation, translates to a budget roughly the same size as the previous year.

    But yeah, the NIH is a singularly competent and useful government agency, and its a shame that Washington can’t find the resolve to cut funding from any of its many demonstrably useless and counterproductive programs to fund the NIH instead.

  4. #4 Shelley Batts
    November 15, 2007

    Sorry for the confusion. After the budget doubling, which was a boon and an isolated increase, the budget has remained essentially the same since 2003. Check out this link for perhaps a better representation of that:

    This site (, the source of the graph is an advocacy website and echos the fact that the NIH budget has not kept pace with inflation in the past 4 years.

    Biomedical inflation is a bit different than ‘regular inflation’–and according to the AAAS’s report on the topic..

    “…NIH would continue to fall well behind its own calculations of biomedical research inflation, estimated at 4.1 percent this year and 3.8 percent in 2007. The NIH budget would fall 11 percent from 2004 to 2007 based on these calculations, and 5.3 percent based on economy-wide inflation.”

  5. #5 ted
    November 15, 2007

    What has really been appalling is the attempts by the American Chemical Society to undermine Open Access. This Society really needs some new leadership.

  6. #6 dreikin
    November 15, 2007

    Bill failed today’s veto attempt by two votes, with 15 no-votes split fairly evenly between R and D:

    Of those who voted:
    All D: ‘Aye’
    1/4 R: ‘Aye’
    3/4 R: ‘Nay’

  7. #7 Lucas
    November 17, 2007

    I saw a senator on CSPAN the other day talking about Bush’s veto. He said something like “In thirty years of public office, I’ve never had anyone come up to me and say ‘you guys need to get your act together and cut cancer research.'”

  8. #8 tom B
    November 18, 2007

    “What has really been appalling is the attempts by the American Chemical Society to undermine Open Access. This Society really needs some new leadership.”

    As a random member of the ACS, I love the journals and the meetings, but the organization has some huge failings. The open access issue is one. The fact that SciFinder is grotesquely overpriced and doesn’t have a sliding scale for small companies is another (the competing product, Beilstein, is awful. PubChem is worse). The fact that ACS does nothing to limit chemistry degrees per year; thus, letting “supply” of chemists get out of sync with demand.

    There are fundamental conflicts of interest: the revenues they get from SciFinder, and the monies they get from chemical companies in C&E News. It makes it hard for them to advocate for the worker, like competant professional orgs do (AMA. AMA, ABA, etc), IMHO.

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