FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

FY 2009 Senate NIH Appropriations Bill

Richard M. Jones
Number 77 - July 14, 2008  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

Adjust text size enlarge text shrink text    |    Print this pagePrint this page    |     Bookmark and Share     |    rss feed for FYI

The Senate Appropriations Committee has just released its report accompanying its version of the FY 2009 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. S. 3230 provides $154.9 billion for a wide variety of government agencies and programs, one of which is the National Institutes of Health.

The following are selections from Senate Report 110-410 accompanying the bill. There is extensive language regarding the NIH in the report; the entire text may be read here.

Below are the committee's comments and observations regarding NIH funding, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and language of interest regarding High-risk/High-reward Research, and New and Early-stage Investigators.

NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH:

The current budget is $29.3 billion.
The Administration's FY 2009 request was $29.3 billion.
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $30.2 billion, an increase of 3.1 percent or $0.9 billion.

The committee report states:

"The Committee has sounded the alarm for more Federal biomedical research funding for several years, and the situation is now at a crisis point. Since the end of the 5-year doubling effort, in fiscal year 2003, funding for the National Institutes of Health [NIH] has declined, in real terms, by 12.3 percent. The average researcher now has a less than 1 in 5 chance of getting an NIH grant application approved, and the average age at which researchers receive their first RO1 grant has risen to 42. It is little wonder that many young scientists are balking at a career in biomedical research, putting our Nation at risk of losing a generation of talented investigators who could pursue treatments and cures. Meanwhile, several other countries are ramping up their investments in biomedical research and threatening the leadership of the United States in this field.

"Regrettably, the administration's budget ignores these warning signs and proposes to freeze NIH funding at the fiscal year 2008 level of $29,229,524,000. Under this plan, the success rate for research project grants would fall to 18 percent, the lowest level on record . . . ."

"The Committee rejects the administration's approach and instead recommends an overall NIH funding increase of $1,025,000,000, for a total of $30,254,524,000. That amount would allow NIH funding to keep up with the biomedical inflation rate (3.5 percent) for the first time in 6 years. It would also increase the estimated number of new, competing research project grants to 10,471– the most ever at NIH . . . ."

"The Committee recommends $568,119,000 for the Common Fund. The fiscal year 2008 level was $495,608,000, and the budget request is $533,877,000. The Committee intends that much of the increase will be used to support new investigators and high risk/high reward research, as described later in this report under the section on the Office of the Director."

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF BIOMEDICAL IMAGING AND BIOENGINEERING:

The current budget is $298.7 million
The Administration's FY 2009 request was $300.3 million
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $307.3 million, an increase of 2.9 percent or $8.6 million.

The committee's report states:

"Intramural Research- The NIBIB is urged to use a portion of the additional resources provided in the Committee's recommendation to support a new intramural research laboratory in translational radiologic research."

A separate section of the report, "Office of the Director," includes the following language:

"Bridging the Sciences- The Committee continues to support the `Bridging the Sciences' demonstration program and requests a report on its implementation by July 30, 2009." This program centers on the interface of the life and physical sciences, and was required by a previous appropriations bill.

OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR:

"High-risk/High-reward Research- The Committee notes that flat budgets sometimes make review panels overly conservative when judging grant applications. The Committee therefore applauds the NIH for creating sources of funding that are dedicated specifically to research that is relatively risky but could lead to significant advances. One such program is the Director's Pioneer Awards, for which the Committee provides $45,000,000, an increase of $9,000,000 over the fiscal year 2008 level. This program makes awards to investigators with a history of doing innovative research. The Committee also includes up to $50,000,000 for Transformative Research Project Grants, a new program that will provide grants for potentially transformative investigator-initiated projects, and $108,027,000, an increase of $51,853,000 over the fiscal year 2008 level, for New Innovator Awards, which are directed to young investigators."

"New and Early-stage Investigators- The Committee encourages the NIH to continue its commitment to maintaining the pipeline of new and early-stage investigators, who tend to fare more poorly during tight financial times than their veteran counterparts. Through programs such as the NIH Director's New Innovator Awards, the NIH Director's Bridge Awards, and the Pathway to Independence Awards, as well as individual programs undertaken by the Institutes and Centers, the NIH has made significant investments to attract and support the researchers of the future. The Committee was pleased to note that in fiscal year 2007, the NIH set a policy to support its 5-year historical average of first-time and early-stage investigators at about 1,500, and that the NIH exceeded this target. The Committee encourages the NIH to continue these efforts, and to seek to support 1,750 new investigators in fiscal year 2009."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095