Last week, NPR highlighted the budget cuts at the National Institutes of Health that are undermining medical research at U.S. universities. The NPR study focused on the University of Virginia, but here’s a look at how the cuts have affected Cornell. Funding for research at our district’s premier research university approached $100 million in 2009, but fell well below $70 million in 2013 (as I read the graph) — less than in 2000.
The actual cuts are far worse due to higher rates of inflation in the medical field than in the general economy. According to NIH Director Francis Collins, the NIH budget has lost 25 per cent of its purchasing power over the last decade. In the past, NIH was able to fund one in three research proposals, but the funding rate has fallen to one in six, according to Collins.
“We are throwing away probably half of the innovative, talented research proposal’s that the nation’s finest biomedical community has produced,” Collins adds. “Particularly for young scientists, they are now beginning to wonder if they are in the wrong field. We have a serious risk of losing the most important resource that we have, which is this brain trust, the talent and the creative energies of this generation of scientists.” Eighteen per cent of these young scientists are considering moving to other countries, where biomedical research is better funded.
Cuts in NIH spending reduce our nation’s competitiveness in developing new drugs and in creating innovative, cost-effective measures to fight disease, including infectious diseases, such as ebola, and degenerative diseases, such as ALS. This blog has already highlighted the hypocrisy of members of Congress, notably our congressman, Rep. Tom Reed, who dump buckets of ice on their head to raise funds for ALS after voting to cut far greater sums from NIH programs that combat the disease.
Congress, and particularly the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, is indeed the source of the problem. Sequestration, government shut-downs, and Tea Party-inspired budget reductions are making our country poorer, less competitive, and less healthy.
Martha Robertson, Reed’s opponent, has a proven record as someone who knows how to use the powers of government to promote prosperity and the well-being of her constituents. That’s probably the biggest reason of all to vote for her on November 4. A vote for Reed is a vote for continuing to shoot ourselves in the foot.