By: Varun Sethi, MD, PhD
European Research Funding
E.U. Parliament up in arms against raid on research funds
The European Commission chief, Jean-Claude Juncker plans to cut 2.7 billion Euros from the European Unions’ proposed research budget for the period 2014 to 2020. The European Parliament is showing a united front to protect the research funds from cuts, but in this tug of war of political games, it is unclear who will win. The secretary general of the League of European Research Universities, Kurt Deketelaere, believes that this is change is unnecessary.
Juncker and colleagues are trying to reassure researchers that there is no cause for worry. They justify that the above mentioned cuts represent only 3.5% of the overall budget for Horizon 2020, the European Union’s seven year research funding plan. Even after this cut, the funding still remains 38% higher than the preceding seven year program. They also believe that this money would be used to attract more investments from governments and private investors, thus leading to further re-investment for innovation. This explanation is not easy to digest for scientists and research organizations. A group of Nobel laureates have commented that this move is a ‘misguided and short sighted policy’. They are concerned that this move will give the impression that Europe is not the destination for high quality science.
While the members of the European parliament have voted to battle the plan to divert funds, the coming weeks of negotiations between the commission, Parliament and member states is likely to see intense debate. Juncker has stated that a decision needs to be made by summer; the coming few weeks will hopefully bring some clarity to this paradigm shift. (ScienceInsider)
Public Engagement in Science
AAAS Unveils Alan I. Leshner Leadership Institute
Alan I. Leshner served as the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) from 2001 until 2015. His work focused on public engagement, international research cooperation and global science diplomacy. To honor his work and legacy, AAAS recently unveiled ‘The Alan I Leshner Institute in Public Engagement in Science’.
The institute specifically aims to train and empower 15 mid-career scientists per year, so as to develop public engagement activities in their respective home communities. The program shall include an intensive week long training curriculum which will be followed by twelve months of support. The nominations for the first cohort of scientist–leaders will open in fall and participants will be competitively selected by an advisory committee. This committee shall comprise natural and physical scientists, social scientists and public engagement practitioners.
The initial focus of this new institute will be communicating climate change, and is supported by over $500,000 in donations. Climate change is both a pressing and timely issue; it is an important agenda that is being addressed at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change conference in Paris. President Obama’s proposal to cut green house emissions also highlights the importance of addressing this issue.
Beyond 2016, AAAS staff and advisors will select other areas of science, gravitating towards topics that have a strong science-society component. (Ginger Pinholster, AAAS News)
Federal Health Policy
Capitol Hill Report: Victory! Congress Permanently Repeals SGR
The flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula has been permanently repealed by the US Senate, following a 92-8 vote earlier this month. This brings to an end a series of 17 patches since 2002. The American Academy of Neurology, along with the entire physician community had supported this legislation. While the bill still has room for improvement, it does contain modest payment updates.
The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2) is result of many years of effort. This bipartisan, bicameral process is possibly the most significant change in US health policy since the Affordable Care Act. Effective immediately, the SGR formula has been repealed and ends the current and future payment cuts called for by this faulty formula. The legislation provides a duration of 4.5 years of 0.5% annual updates, all the way up to 2019. Then, updates will be frozen until 2025 and further changes are proposed from 2026.
Other aspects addressed by this act include merit based incentive payment system (MIPS), alternative payment models (APMs), chronic care management, electronic health records, quality measure development and the children health insurance program (CHIP). The bill also reverses the decision to phase out the 10- and 90- day global periods for surgical services. The full impact of the H.R. 2 will become finalized and understood, only gradually, over time.
The H.R. 2 is the beginning of fundamental changes in the way Medicare will function. The goal remains to improve physician participation in Medicare and ensure patient access to care. (Mike Amery, American Academy of Neurology)
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