The President’s FY13 budget proposal, which Republicans in Congress declared dead on arrival, should generally be of concern to those in biomedical research. The HHS Budget in Brief report euphemistically starts the section on the NIH budget (p 34) with:
The FY 2013 Budget requests $30.9 billion for the NIH, the same level as in FY 2012, reflecting the Administration’s priority to invest in innovative biomedical and behavioral research that spurs economic growth while advancing medical science.
Hmmm. Unless we are projected to have 0% inflation, this translates into a decrease, leaving some head-scratching about actual level of priority given here. Of course, the NIH budget hasn’t kept up with the pace of inflation for the last decade, so why start now.
The flat line does not extend across all ICs either. Only NINDS, NIAMS, NINR, and FIC remain unchanged from FY12 funding levels. NIGMS gives up the bonus $ appropriated to the IDeA program last year with a $48M drop, and the OD (Office of Director) loses $28M (from the National Children’s Study), with perhaps some of this going to NCATS, a clear winner in this budget proposal ($64M, of which $40M will go to CAN, the Cures Acceleration Network). Most other IC increases/decreases are in the $1-3M range, with a few exceptions: NIAID gains $10M, NEI loses $9M, and the NLM bumps up $8M.
Although the budget proposal shows RPG $ going down by $26M ($23M of this shifts to intramural & management budgets), the number of competing awards (Type 1/Type 2) will go up by 672, offset by the removal of 777 noncompeting renewals from the books. Guess not all these folks are among the happy competing renewal crowd. The allocation for research centers drops by $64M and for research training by $2M (but a 2% stipend increase for pre/postdocs). R&D contracts would see a $108M boost.
Just over half (53.3%) of the NIH budget goes to support extramural RPGs, and the NIH is squeezing each grant awarded harder to come up with enough cash to fund more applications, mainly by controlling average award size (target of $431M for FY13). The OER gave us a peak into what fiscal policies might be implemented to make dwindling dollars go farther (Sally Rockey just added a post about the belt-tightening measures in relation to the FY13 budget). A lower salary cap is already in place, shifting some of this burden to the awardee institutions. For all you basic science assistant professors, this doesn’t sound like much of a burden, but clinician scientists will have a harder sell asking to do research (net loss to their department) rather than see patients (net gain), particularly if academic medical centers must also absorb significant cuts in Medicare indirect medical education payments. As per fiscal policy in FY12, no inflationary increases will given to awardees. The budgets of all noncompeting renewals will be reduced by 1% below their FY12 budget. New for FY13 (regardless of what appropriation finally passes, no doubt in mid 2014) will be NIH-wide scrutiny of PIs receiving more than $1.5M in total costs annually prior to making additional awards (you may recall the Nature piece on the 22 big hitters or may have seen the recent story on “grandee grantees“, plus its informative comment by Jeremy Berg); some ICs have already done this, such as NIMH and NIGMS.
For those of you with more basic research interests, the NSF was the biggest science winner in the Administration’s budget blueprint, with a $340M increase that translates into 5.2% increase in research funding at the 6 science directorates and a 5.8% increase in the education directorate. FASEB spells out the 3% increase to the Biological Sciences Directorate:
BIO plans to focus on 5 Grand Challenges including “genomes to phenomes;” synthetic biology; neurosystems; Earth, climate, and biosphere; and biological diversity. Assistant Director John Wingfield, PhD also expressed a desire to increase collaboration, broaden participation, and improve public outreach.
Of course, it is hardly all over but the shoutin’. The shoutin’ hasn’t even begun …