Support from Harold Varmus and Kenneth Shine For Doubling of NSF Budget Accompanying the release of the "Dear Colleague" letter by Senators Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-MO) and Barbara Mikulski (D- MD), seeking a doubling of the NSF budget by 2006, were two supporting letters from leaders in medical research. The first is from Harold Varmus, former director of the National Institutes of Health, and now President of Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center. The second is from the President of the Institute of Medicine, Kenneth Shine. The text of both letters follows:
"I am writing in support of efforts that are being mounted to double the budget of the National Science Foundation over the next five years. I join this effort because the opportunities for investing wisely in science have never been greater and because it is important for grant-making agencies like the NSF to try to plan for sustained growth over several years.
"The NSF has a splendid history of sustaining fundamental research across a broad spectrum of disciplines, and this approach is especially important now as laboratory work becomes increasingly interdisciplinary. In my own field of medical science, rapid advances in the deciphering of genomes and protein structures are revolutionizing our understanding of biology. Essential contributions to both genome sequencing and determination of protein structures have come from work supported by the NSF, and efforts to take advantage of this new information will require expanded activity in disciplines traditionally dependent on the NSF---including computer science, chemistry, physics, and engineering. Indeed, from the perspective of a medical scientist, there could be no more opportune time to guarantee the vitality of American science funded by the NSF.
"As I learned during my recent tenure as Director of the National Institutes of Health, it is crucial that leaders of science agencies be able to anticipate several years of steady growth during periods of expansion. These agencies make multi- year awards and are responsible for training and research infrastructure, as well as the operational costs of doing research. To make effective use of a stronger financial base, it is necessary to plan the use of expanded dollars over a multi- year period. For this reason, it is extremely important to campaign for a measured expansion of funds, such as that embodied in a plan to double the NSF budget over five years. In this way, you can be assured that the agency's leaders will have an opportunity to make the most thoughtful use of this significant increment.
"Please let me know if I can be of further assistance in this laudable effort."
"I am writing to express my support for the concept of doubling the NSF budget over the next few years.
"It is a common misconception that advances in biomedical research are only supported by the National Institutes of Health. While the Congress has been both generous and wise in its support of the NIH in recent years, it is important to note that advances in medicine are very dependent upon other fields of science that are mostly supported by the National Science Foundation. Science is interrelated, and so we need to have balance in this funding for medicine to move forward.
"The late Lewis Thomas, the former head of Yale Medical School and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, once observed that the greatest advances in improving human health was the development of clean drinking water and sewage systems. So we owe our health as much to civil engineering as we do to biology. The development of the pacemaker, in which I played a minor role, was not only a result of our study of cardiovascular systems, but also electrical engineering. Without the miniaturization of circuits and transistors, the pacemaker would never have become the lifesaving device that it has. One could name many other illustrations of how the physics, chemistry, and mathematics have been at the core of developments that improve human health.
"This will continue to be the case. Some of the most promising and exciting prospects and fields right now have arisen from science and engineering disciplines supported by the NSF. Bioengineering, new materials, prosthetics, and information technologies are vital as basic research fields that will improve health care in the future.
"NSF supports all of these fields, and I believe that a doubling of the NSF budget will pay for itself many times over in terms of saving costs, and, more importantly, improving human health."
Richard M. Jones