Public Affairs

Public Affairs

BPS, Congressmen Urge Appropriators to Support NIH

The Biophysical Society joined 212 other organizations from the medical and research fields in sending a letter to the House and Senate Labors-HHS Appropriations Committees urging them to provide at least $32 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in FY 2013. The
letter, sent by the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, of which the Biophysical Society is a member, states that this funding recommendation
“represents the minimum investment necessary to avoid further loss of promising research and at the same time allows the NIH’s budget to keep pace with biomedical inflation.” The coalition also submitted a written statement for the record to the House Labor-HHS Appropriations
Subcommittee.

The same week the Ad Hoc letter was sent, a bipartisan group of 49 senators, led by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC),
sent a letter urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to “maintain a strong commitment to funding the NIH….” The letter states, “We
believe that it is essential to continue federal support for medical research funding because of the potential health benefits for all Americans and the importance of ensuring that our Nation remains at the forefront of medical research.”

Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA) submitted a similar bipartisan letter, signed by more than 150 Members, to the
House Appropriations Committee leadership.

Also at the end of March, NIH Director Francis Collins and several institute directors testified in front of the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Committee regarding the agency’s FY 2013 budget. Issues of major concern to Senators in attendance were the president’s proposal of flat funding in FY 2013 and the potential impact of sequestration, the automatic cuts to the federal budget that will take place in January 2013 if Congress does not find a way to cut funding to the agreed upon level.

Both Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) praised NIH and expressed concerns about the US’s ability to remain the world leader in medical research under a flat budget for NIH. Senator Shelby noted that the administration’s request “does not keep pace with biomedical research inflation and as a result in inflationary adjusted dollars the NIH is 17% below where they were ten years ago.”

In response to a question from Chairman Harkin on the impact of sequestration Collins stated that the potential cut would amount to a $2.4 billion loss for NIH and result in roughly 2,300 fewer research project grants, almost a quarter of new and competing grants. Success rates for new applications would fall to historically low levels.

Call for 1,000,000 More STEM Graduates

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released its report entitled Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in February. According to PCAST, the report “provides a strategy for improving STEM education during the first two years of college” and “is responsive to both the challenges and the opportunities that this crucial stage in the STEM education pathway presents.”

According to the report, over the next decade, approximately one million more college graduates in STEM fields will be needed than expected under current assumptions. Presently, fewer than 40% of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field complete a STEM degree. Increasing the retention of STEM majors from 40% to 50% would generate three-quarters of the targeted one million additional STEM degrees needed over the next decade.

In order to increase the retention rate of STEM majors, PCAST identified five recommendations:

  • Catalyze widespread adoption of empirically validated teaching practices;
  • Advocate and provide support for replacing standard laboratory courses with discoverybased research courses;
  • Launch a national experiment in post-secondary mathematics education to address the mathematics-preparation gap;
  • Encourage partnerships among stakeholders to diversify pathways to STEM careers; and
  • Create a Presidential Council on STEM Education with leadership from the academic and business communities to provide strategic leadership for transformative and sustainable change in STEM undergraduate education.

To read the report in full or the accompanying fact sheet, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/pcast.

May 2012 Table of Contents