Public Affairs

Public Affairs

AAAS Estimates Sequestration Cuts to Research

 With the Congressional and Presidential election results nearly behind us (after November 6), Congress will return to Washington, D.C. for a lame duck session, a legislative session in which those that lost reelection or are retiring are still in office and still have a vote. During the session, Congress is expected to tackle sequestration, the large, automatic, across-theboard reductions in federal funding set to begin January 1, 2013, which were established in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011. The cut would result in an immediate $5.2 billion reduction in nondefense discretionary spending, which includes biomedical research funding. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has estimated the budget impacts sequestration would have on key R&D agencies, and the funding ramifications by state, over the next five years.

The purpose of the BCA and sequestration is to reign in the federal deficit. The BCA accomplished this by establishing caps that will keep federal discretionary spending mostly flat (when accounting for inflation) over the next decade and by putting in additional automatic reductions – the sequestration – which would reduce federal spending even more- roughly 9.4 percent for defense spending and 8.2 percent for nondefense spending. Almost no one likes the BCA and the possibility of sequestration; the law was created to intentionally include something disagreeable to all the negotiators as a way to force them to come up with a bipartisan plan to avoid it.

The AAAS estimates that federal R&D spending could but cut by more than $50 billion over the next five years. If sequestration takes place as it is currently written, the NIH could receive a cut of $11.3 billion over five years, averaging $2.3 billion less per year for research. The National Science Foundation could receive $2.1 billion less over five years. If defense spending is taken out of the equation, which some in Congress are advocating for, the NIH would see a $26.1 billion cut over the next five years, or $5.2 billion per year. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science could lose $3.9 billion total for research, or $775.9 million per year; NSF could lose $4.9 billion, or $976.0 million per year. These cuts would result in a major decrease to the amount of research being conducted in the US.

To read the AAAS report on sequestration and see the detailed analysis of cuts by agency and by state, go to

Worried About Sequestration: Make your voice heard!

The Biophysical Society has created a webpage ( focused on sequestration and will keep it up-to-date with information on what is happening. Information will be included on current advocacy efforts and steps you can take to make your voice heard.

In September, the Society joined an American Physical Society (APS) initiative to encourage student scientists to share their concerns about sequestration with Congress. APS student members created a letter expressing their concern over the effect sequestration will have on future job prospects and research opportunities, amongst other things. The Biophysical Society let student members know about the opportunity to sign the letter via email and social media outlets. Through September, 4000 students form a multitude of scientific disciplines had signed the letter. Students can sign the letter through November 10, 2012 at The letter will be delivered to Congress when it returns to work November 13, 2012.

After November 10, you can still let your Congressmen know how you feel about sequestration. There are instructions on how to do so at

New NIH Institute Gets Director

Christopher P. Austin became the director of the NIH’s newest center, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) on September 23. Austin had been serving as director of NCATS Division of Pre-Clinical Innovation since the NCATS launch in December 2011.

A developmental neurogeneticist by training, Austin came to NIH in 2002 as senior advisor to the director for translational research at the National Human Genome Research Institute. Austin earned a medical degree from Harvard Medical School and an undergraduate degree in biology from Princeton University.

Austin succeeded NCATS Acting Director Thomas R. Insel.

November 2012 Table of Contents