Science has a nice recap of how the current continuing resolution (through March 6, 2009) and ongoing budget dance affects federal agencies that sponsor research. The biggest loser: the NIH.
With the exclusion of the $150 million bump this year in a supplemental spending bill, NIH officials are facing a budget of $29.2 billion, 1% more than the agency received in 2007.
In the past, NIH has responded to continuing resolutions by giving investigators with ongoing grants only 80% of the approved amount for the duration of the CR. But this year’s freeze applies to half the fiscal year, much longer than previous CRs. In addition, when the first round of next year’s grant applications are reviewed in December, NIH will likely award fewer than it normally would because of the uncertainly about how much of a raise it will eventually get in 2009. (The House and Senate spending panels had approved roughly 2% to 3%.)
The need to be cautious will increase pressure on study sections trying to choose between equally meritorious competing grants applications and on young investigators, says Howard Garrison of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. “The acting director is going to have to deal with all the old problems and no additional resources,” he says.
Senator Byrd’s $56.3B economic stimulus package would help (to the tune of $1.2B for the NIH), but we’ll see what the chances of passage and signing are in the weeks to come. In the meantime, the NIH notified current awardees that their awarded budgets would be trimmed to at least 90% of the awarded amount, with the possibility of some funding being restored if/when a budget is passed in 2009. Of course, animal per diem rates, tuition, salaries, benefits, supplies, etc. continue to creep up in the other direction.
Oof. Here at Baby It’s Cold Outside, academic departments are being told to give money back due to state budget shortfalls that are retroactively trimming an already ridiculously low university appropriation to token support. And our goliath medical center partner is waving good-bye to its Wall Street investments, so they’re no help right now either. I’m sure academic medical centers across the country are in the same boat, sinking at various rates.