NIH Budget Sequestration Cuts Impact

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has published figures detailing how dramatically the federal budget sequestration will impact its 2013 budget: available funds will drop by $1.55 billion from last year, reports Science Insider.

The budget cuts will noticeably damage American biomedical research for years, say experts, and scientists are taking to Twitter with the hashtag #NIHSequesterImpact to detail the sequestration’s harm to their work.

Former NIH Director, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, told the Washington Post that the sequester will “maim our innovation capabilities” for generations, shrinking resources at promising labs and causing many young scientists to abandon the field.

Specifically, the NIH announced that the budget sequestration will cut its overall budget for the 2013 fiscal year to $29.15 billion, a decrease of about five percent from 2012.

While the average size of new and competing awards will match 2012 levels, there will be fewer of them available. Science reports that this means 8,283 new research grants will be awarded in 2013, 703 fewer than last year. Including ongoing grants, a total of 34,902 grants will be funded, a decline of 1,357 from 2012.

Cuts that were made to ongoing grants during the budget panic earlier this year might be partially restored, but “are unlikely to be restored to the previous commitment level,” announced the NIH notice.

In addition, there will be no inflationary increases for grants that last multiple years, meaning that labs will have to work harder to make resources last as their studies progress.

The Science article details the sequestration responses of individual institutes of the NIH that have announced their new 2013 budget plans, including the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).

The NCI budget will be cut by 5.8 percent to $4.78 billion, $293 million less than was available for cancer research in 2012. The NIGMS budget will take a five percent cut to $2.29 billion for general medical research.

In addition to hindering basic research and job growth in the sciences, experts fear that the American public will suffer from the budget sequestration in the long run, becoming sicker over the next several decades than they would if high-level studies on deadly and debilitating diseases continue.

The official NIH statement about the sequestration’s reduction of its 2013 budget is remarkably upbeat in the face of the dramatic cuts:

“Despite the reduced funding, the NIH remains committed to the mission of seeking fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life and reduce the burden of illness and disability.”

At a press conference in late March, however, NIH Director Francis Collins was more forthright, calling the sequestration cuts “devastating” for medical research and noting that the United States’ international competitors- China, India, Europe, and Russia- are increasing their investments in research by as much as 65 percent in the coming year.

Collins started a Twitter discussion yesterday about the sequestration’s impact on individual biomedical research labs, asking scientists to detail the cuts’ chilling effects on their work with the hashtag #NIHSequesterImpact.