To do science, we need government funding. However you feel about the free market, there just isn’t a way for the free market to work on basic research. It’s too risky, with not enough profitability. The things I discover in lab next week will never make me rich, and I’m not aware of many Nobel winners that did their work in private industry. We need the government to pay for what we do.

And we don’t cost that much. Take a look at this chart and see if you can find how much we spend on scientific discovery. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Still looking? Might want to try full screen.

There are a lot of problems with doing science in the US, not the least of which is funding. In the past few years, the percentage of grants getting funding has dropped to historic lows, to the point where only about 1 in 10 research grants is actually funded.

NIH payline over time

My former boss at Scripps wrote up a petition to increase funding for the NIH. Please consider lending your voice – with the congress critters freaking out about every penny, who knows if this will go anywhere, but something needs to be done.

Full text of the petition after the jump.

I am writing to you today to implore you to support the House proposal to increase the 2012 National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget by 3.3% ($31.7 billion). Since the 1930′s, the NIH has been a fundamental supporter of basic biomedical research in the U.S. Funding from the NIH supports research in all 50 states. These awards are made to over 3,000 universities, medical schools, and research institutions, and they support more than 350,000 researchers. NIH funding to basic research has supported findings that were honored by 121 Nobel Prizes, including this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The nonprofit coalition United for Medical Research concluded that funding by the NIH in 2010 produced $68 billion in new economic activity, which is a greater than 100% return on our investment!

Some would argue that the private sector should take over some of the lost funding for academic, basic research. The sad fact is that the private sector does not support the type of basic research that the NIH does; they take the results NIH-funded research and apply it to drug development. In addition, many entities in the private sector are currently slashing their Research & Development (R&D) budgets! For example, Pfizer recently cut its R & D budget by 1.5 billion.

Consider the following numbers. For 2011 budget, U.S. spending on:
Social security was $2564 per citizen (20.8% of the budget)
Defense was $2203 per citizen (18% of the budget)
Medicare was $1569 per citizen (12.8% of the budget)
Medicaid was $1172 per citizen (7.8% of the budget)
NIH was $99 per citizen (0.8% of the budget)

I ask you – how would cutting the NIH budget solve our current deficit problem? Imagine the jobs we could create and the medical breakthroughs we could make by taking a few dollars of those appropriated for Social Security, Defense, Medicare, or Medicaid and using it to increase the NIH budget.

Can we really afford this frightening trend, especially at a time where the European Union and China are adopting a NIH-style research funding system and Chinese government support of R & D is currently outpacing our own. Sadly, the NIH budget in recent years has been stagnant, and the current NIH budget only supports half the research it did a decade ago. Supporting NIH funding is the best decision this country can make to create high technology jobs for our children (increasing our tax base) and to support life-changing medical advances (decreasing health care costs). Funding the NIH is a small investment that pays big dividends for our economy and our future.

Comments

  1. #1 Kathleen Dickson
    November 17, 2011

    Government funding really hasn’t done any good. To Wit: “Lyme Disease” (MS, Lupus, Cancer, ALS, Vaccines-that-cause The-Disease…etc).

    So, as a matter of fact, I contact the Chinese and Russians, directly, to try to help them along with their science.

    Been doing that since 2006…

    Kathleen M. Dickson
    http://www.actionlyme.org

  2. #2 NJ
    November 17, 2011

    KD@1:

    Government funding really hasn’t done any good. To Wit: “Lyme Disease” (MS, Lupus, Cancer, ALS, Vaccines-that-cause The-Disease…etc).

    An excellent source to aid your work:

    http://www.reynoldspkg.com/reynoldskitchens/en/product.asp?cat_id=1337&prod_id=1789

    Use it for a hat. Will help keep the CIA from reading your mind remotely.

  3. #3 rork
    November 17, 2011

    The first link shows proposed NIH budget would increase by 1 billion to about 32 billion, up 3.2%. Just proposed though. It doesn’t really make your point very well – data from the last 20 years might be more convincing, and might better show who wanted more or less spending on medical research. The graph you show about the success rate can’t be converted to dollars at all, so it’s not persuasive. And you know that.

    I am on your side though. It’s a good investment. That’s the killer argument. Disclaim: it pays my salary.

  4. #4 Kevin
    November 17, 2011

    @ Kathleen – I’m confused. The diseases you mentioned that I know best, like MS and Lupus have had huge increases in survival and decreases in morbidity thanks to government funded research. For cancer, go here and enter almost any set of conditions. I challenge you to find an example where prognosis hasn’t improved in the last 30 years. The vast majority of those improvements are directly supported by government funded research.

    @ NJ – No comment

    @ rork – First link was meant to illustrate how small a portion of the budget the NIH actually comprises, second link wasn’t explained very well, I agree. I re-wrote it several times, maybe I should have gone straight to the petition itself, which I think lays it out better.

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