Today the President should sign legislation continuing the CR through December 16 and … miracle of miracles … establish the FY12 appropriations for several federal agencies, including the NSF (p 246-249). In a burst of generosity, both chambers agreed on a 2.5% increase for the NSF (whereas previously, neither had).
Interesting … but even more interesting is a new mechanism through which the NSF will distribute some of this taxpayer largess: the CREATIV means to by-pass external peer review. Of course, this $24M initiative has a contorted name to achieve his acronym … Creative Research Awards for Transformative Interdisciplinary Ventures … for which the distinguishing characteristics are that “only internal merit review is required; proposals must be interdisciplinary and potentially transformative; and requests may be up to $1,000,000 and up to 5 years duration.” You do need buy in from program directors in 2 distinct divisions or programs. Applications will start pouring in Dec 1.
Getting back to the larger budget issues, FY12 for the NIH remains an unknown beyond the 1.5% cut from FY11 in the CR. We’ll see what happens along the way to Dec 16. In the meantime, here is a recap of the budget process as part of a comment I posted in NIH Paylines & Resources that may help those new to government dysfunction:
The federal fiscal year goes from Oct 1 to Sept 30 … and the year attached to the FY is always the second calendar year involved. We are currently in FY12.
Long long ago, Congress used to pass appropriation bills for individual federal agencies (i.e., Defense, Energy, State, Agriculture, et al.) before the FY ended, so the agencies would know how much money they had to spend during the next fiscal year. If there are no appropriation bills passed by Congress and signed into law by the President (or if there are only a few passed into law) by Oct 1, then Congress needs to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to maintain funding for the operation of the federal government. When you hear about threats of a federal government shut-down, this is why – no appropriated funds, no money to continue functioning. Continuing resolutions typically simply maintain the same funding levels from the year prior. For this year, F12, Congress passed a CR that funded the NIH at FY11 funding levels *minus* 1.5%. So, the NIH started FY12 with a funding cut from FY11.
The NIH has a real problem this year in reading the tea leaves. The House and Senate have completely different versions of the appropriations bill for the NIH. The Senate cuts the NIH budget and authorizes the creation of NCATS and the abolishment of NCRR (which is what Collins wants). The House gives the NIH a 3.3% increase … but keeps NCRR and does not approve the creation of NCATS. The appropriate subcommitttees in each chamber have not made any progress (at least that they’ve made public) on which version of the NIH appropriations language to use. So, no one at the NIH has a clue – not one – as to whether their funding will go up or down as FY12 proceeds. Right now, they have to assume they will complete the entire FY at the current funding level, which is FY11 – 1.5%.
You got a problem with how this system is working? Contact your Congressional delegation about supporting scientific research in the US through consistent, reliable funding streams versus putting everyone through this game every year. FASEB can help you find and communicate with your elected officials.