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Science Policy Around the Web – January 13, 2017

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By: James Taylor, PhD

Source: pixabay

Brexit and Science

Scientists Need To Wake Up to the Opportunities of Brexit

The decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union last July has raised numerous concerns about the future of science within the UK, most notably regarding access to EU funding, such as Horizon 2020, and the effect of new immigration controls on non-UK researchers and students. A recent House of Lords report has called for the UK government and scientists to come together and address these concerns.

Firstly, the government should engage scientists throughout the negotiation process and not just in regards to funding. Leaving the EU will require reworking and harmonizing numerous consumer protection, environmental and manufactory laws, for which technical advice is indispensible. The report welcomes the recent increase in science funding from the government, but states that any loss in EU funding should be compensated for. They recommend that both the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) appoint scientific advisors immediately.

Secondly, the report calls for the scientific community’s voice to be heard alongside that of business during the negotiations. The UK’s relationship with the EU has been consistently harmonious in regards to research, providing a solid point of agreement amongst more difficult negations.

Thirdly, the UK should explore research collaborations beyond the EU. The report suggests this could be realized if the UK were to offer to host a large, international research facility comparable to the Crick Institute or the Diamond Light Source. They also highlight the potential for industrial collaboration and reform of R&D taxation which would not be possible within the EU.

Immigration remains a key concern in regards to Brexit, with many EU scientists in the UK uncertain of their futures with many now considering leaving. The report emphasizes the need to attract and retain the best international talent going as far as to suggest 10 year research grants and support for immediate family for foreign scientific leaders. They also call for the government to clearly state how immigration laws will affect researchers coming to work in the UK, and that the number of international students coming to study in the UK should not count against any immigration targets. (Graeme Reid, The Guardian)

Biomedical Research

The New Face of US Science

A recent analysis has found that the face of biomedical research has changed considerably over the last few decades. The study, which pooled data on holders of PhDs working as biological or biomedical scientists from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients and the American Community Survey, found that the doubling of NIH funding between 1998 and 2004 had a profound effect on the demographics of the scientific workforce. The authors classify scientists who entered the workforce around this time (i.e. under 40s) as a new cohort, giving them the not so snappy title of “doubling boomers”.

The 1998 to 2004 funding increase meant the number of PhD graduates increased significantly during this time, but the lack of growth in academic positions and funding cuts mean that only 1 in 5 still work in academia (as compared to 1 in two in 1990). For the aspiring academic this may seem like terrible news, but the report also found that the majority of biomedical PhDs now work in the private sector where they earn around $30,000 more a year than their academic peers and report lower pressure to publish publications.

The work force is more diverse than ever, with almost half of young biomedical scientists coming from US minority races. The largest growth has come from Asian ethnic groups, followed by a modest increase in researchers from Latino backgrounds. However the proportion of black scientists showed only a minor increase. These demographics should be borne in mind when devising recruitment and retention strategies to make the workforce more egalitarian.

Finally they found that scientists under 40 are likely to have children around the time they will be applying for their first grant. This is particularly problematic for female scientists, who the study found were less likely to have a stay-at-home spouse who can shoulder household responsibilities. The current academic career trajectory does not take in to account these important differences.

Despite many of these problems being discussed anecdotally for quite some time, the systems for tracking the fates of holder of PhDs after they graduate remain lacking, especially for those who leave academia. The authors insist that better and more transparent data is critical for designing new policies to assist young researchers. (Misty Heggeness, Kearney Gunsalus, José Pacas and Gary McDowell, Nature News)

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January 13, 2017 at 10:37 am

Science Policy Around the Web – March 29, 2016

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By: Thaddeus Davenport, Ph.D.

Source: Ashley Fisher / Flickr

Modernizing Scientific Publishing

Handful of Biologists Went Rogue and Published Directly to Internet

Peer-reviewed scientific journals are essential for science. They motivate and reward high-quality experimental design and facilitate the dissemination of knowledge that drives innovation. A recent article in the New York Times nicely captures some of the complexity of modern scientific publishing by examining a recent push by some researchers to publish their findings directly to ‘preprint’ servers – a practice already common in physics and mathematics.

Preprint publishing has the potential to significantly speed up publishing, allowing for faster and wider dissemination of ideas into a free, modern digital forum. Some researchers worry that bypassing the traditional peer-review process might eventually erode the quality of research. Though, it could be argued that so long as articles published to preprint servers are treated as preliminary findings (as, perhaps, we should treat all findings published in even the highest tier journals), the online forum has the potential to be a more transparent, robust peer review process than the current model in which a small number of anonymous reviewers decide the value of research.

The article notes other potential hurdles to the widespread adoption of preprint publishing that are deeply embedded in the culture of research. For example, papers are the currency of science. If authors bypassed this system, they would also bypass the possibility of attaining the classic badges of honor associated with publishing in high tier journals, potentially decreasing their competitiveness when applying for jobs and grants.

A change in publishing practices will also, likely, need to coincide with a change in the culture and value system of scientific research, but it is exciting to watch publishing move into the modern world. Scientific progress thrives on new ideas, and the resources of the digital age have the potential to broaden the reach of ideas and to increase the speed of their communication. (Amy Harmon, New York Times)

Economic Policies

A “Circular Economy” to Reduce Waste and Increase Efficiency

Our current economy can largely be described by a linear flow of material in which natural resources are harvested, combined, refined, and converted into products. These products are purchased, and after some amount of use, ultimately recycled or discarded at the discretion of the owner.  In a Nature special this week, Walter R. Stahel describes the potential economic and environmental benefits of a different sort of economy – a “circular economy” – that “replaces production with sufficiency” by encouraging reuse, repair, and recycling over remanufacturing.

Originally conceived by Stahel and his colleague Geneviève Reday-Mulvey in the 1970s, the concept of a circular economy “grew out of the idea of substituting manpower for energy.” For example, Stahel observed that it requires “more labour and fewer resources to refurbish buildings than to erect new ones.” Applying this model to all products has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially and expand the workforce because “remanufacturing and repair of old goods, buildings and infrastructure creates skilled jobs in local workshops.”

To support a transition to a more circular economy, Stahel recommends – among other things in his article –  a change in the way economic success is measured. Rather than trying to maximize our gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the flow of resources, perhaps we should attempt to optimize the “value-per-weight” or “labor-input-per-weight” of the manufactured products. Policies and tax structures designed to maximize these economic indicators might be effective in encouraging stewardship of the earth’s limited resources and cultivating job growth. (Walter R. Stahel, Nature News)

A Second Chance for Grants

New funding matchmaker will cater to NIH rejects

The majority of NIH grant applications do not receive funding, not necessarily because the applications are of poor quality, but rather because there are simply more good ideas than the government has the capacity to support. A recent article in Science news by Kelly Servick describes a pilot program started earlier this month by NIH in collaboration with Leidos to address this gap in funding.

The program, known as OnPAR, aims to establish a more open market in which NIH grant applications that score well (within the thirtieth percentile) but do not receive funding would then be made available to private organizations and funding agencies for consideration. It seems that this system would be of substantial benefit to grantwriters – increasing the efficiency of grant-writing and review by allowing “recycling” of grants and their associated peer reviews, which are expensive to produce in terms of time and energy, and thus, money.

Funding agencies may see value in this program through expanded access, possibly finding themselves in the position to fund and motivate inquiry for researchers who may not have applied to their organization directly. However, private funding agencies are often in a position similar to that of the federal government – they receive more good applications than they have resources to support, and Servick notes that “the success of the project will hinge on whether private funders see value in using OnPAR in addition to their existing grant review process.”

If funders do find value in OnPAR, it is conceivable that they might allocate a percentage of their annual budget for OnPAR grants. Time will reveal the ultimate value of OnPAR, but it is a step in the right direction. How else might we increase the efficiency of the scientific production cycle? (Kelly Servick, Science News)

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March 29, 2016 at 10:00 am

Science Policy Around the Web – March 27, 2015

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By: Agila Somasundaram, Ph.D

Amazon Manaus forest” by Phil P Harris. – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Climate Change

Amazon Forest Becoming Less of a Climate Change Safety Net

Forests help reduce global warming by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and releasing oxygen in return. In a recent study done by a team at the University of Leeds, Britain, researchers reported that the ability of the Amazon forests to absorb excess carbon is declining over time, a finding that does not bode well for the environment. Even though carbon emissions have been drastically increasing, the Earth’s forests and oceans have surprisingly kept up with it. But the study, done over 30 years, covering 189,000 trees across 321 plots in the Amazon basin, has reported that carbon uptake in the Amazon has fallen by half since its peak in the 1990s. Researchers postulate that the rising carbon dioxide levels may have initially sped up the growth of the trees, but the increased metabolism of trees may have led to the decline in carbon absorption. “With time, the growth stimulation feeds through the system, causing trees to live faster, and so die younger,” says Oliver L. Phillips, a tropical ecologist at the University of Leeds and one of the lead researchers of the study. Though forests are still absorbing more carbon than they are releasing, the question is if this trend will reverse. Will other forests also decrease their carbon absorption over time? “Forests are doing us a huge favor, but we can’t rely on them to solve the carbon problem,” Dr. Phillips said. “Instead, deeper cuts in (carbon) emissions will be required to stabilize our climate.” (Justin Gillis, The New York Times)

STEM

White House Science Fair celebrates student research

On March 23, 2015, the White House hosted its fifth annual White House Science Fair, where more than 100 elementary, middle and high-school students showcased their exciting and innovative research accomplishments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to President Obama and other government officials. “We’ve got to celebrate the winners of our science fairs as much as we celebrate the winners of football or basketball or other athletic competitions,” said President Obama. 35 student teams, the winners of STEM competitions across the country, exhibited their projects that ranged from disease diagnostics and clean energy, to enhanced information security. Sixteen-year old Sophia Sánchez-Maes has developed energy-efficient ways of extracting lipids from algae, and optimizing their use in biofuel production. Eric Koehlmoos, 18, has found that treating prairie grass with calcium hydroxide could boost ethanol production, making it a viable alternative to corn-based ethanol. Nikhil Behari, 14, created a computer protocol that measures each individual’s unique typing style to help protect online user identity. Other exhibits included carbon dioxide-powered batteries, software to identify genetic mutations that cause breast cancer, spine implants for scoliosis patients, and a Lego-based automatic page-turner. As part of the Fair, President Obama announced $240 million in funding for the ‘Educate to Innovate’ program, including a $150-million philanthropic effort to empower promising early-career scientists to become scientific leaders, a $90 million ‘Let Everyone Dream’ campaign to expand STEM opportunities to under-represented youth, and a $25 million Department of Education competition to create science- and literacy-based media to inspire students to explore. The announcements also included 120 universities and colleges to train 20,000 engineers to tackle the ‘Grand Challenges’ of the 21st century, and a coalition of CEOs called ‘Change the Equation’ to expand STEM programs to 1.5 million more students this year. The theme of this year’s science fair was ‘Diversity and Inclusion in STEM’, and the fair emphasized the importance of including minorities and women in science. “Science is for all of us,” Obama said, “and we want our classrooms and labs and workplaces and media to reflect that.” (Emily Conover, Science)

Climate Change

Arctic Ice Reaches a Low Winter Maximum

The Arctic Ocean is covered by a large amount of ice that fluctuates on a seasonal basis – the ice peaks around March, after which it melts during the warmer spring and summer climes, and reaches its minimum around September every year. This year the arctic ice reached its annual peak on Feb 25, two weeks earlier than average, and the ice cover is lower than it has been at the end of a winter, since 1978, says the National Snow and Ice Data Center in its report. The center said that this could be partly explained by recent changes in weather patterns – the North Pacific was warmer, and the south was cooler with heavier snows, because of the change in spread of the atmospheric jet stream of cold air. Walt Meier, a NASA scientist, says that the summer minimums of ice cover in the Arctic can have a greater effect on global climate than winter maximums, and that the winter ice cover is not a good predictor of how much ice will be left by the end of summer. This is because during winter, the ice near the edges of the sheet are thin, and melt, whereas the thicker ice in the center melt during summers. “When you lose summer ice you aren’t really just losing it for that year, you’re also losing some ice from many years ago,” he said. “That makes it harder for things to go back towards normal.” This long-term decline in the Arctic sea ice is mainly driven by global warming as a result of huge emissions of greenhouse gases by humans. (Derek Watkins, The New York Times)

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March 27, 2015 at 9:00 am

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Inching Forward – An Initiative to Understand the Brain

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By: Varun Sethi, MD, Ph.D.

On April 2nd 2013, the twitter handle @BRAINinitiative re-tweeted a White House announcement that stated “Today we announce the next great American Project – the BRAIN initiative”. Since then, punctuated tweets have told the story of the evolution of this initiative to an audience of over 1400 followers. The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative was launched in 2013, as a 12 year long journey towards BRAIN 2025, identifying it as one of the major Grand Challenges for the 21st century and aiming to improve our understanding of the brain in action.

Neurological diseases, developmental and degenerative alike, are disabling, expensive and chronic conditions. The physical and economic burden of neurological diseases is only expected to increase with the growth of an increasingly aging population. At a time when the prevalence of neurological conditions is increasing across the spectrum, this initiative has been a catalyst to neurological research. The initiative aims to develop and apply new technologies, create maps of brain circuits, and improve the comprehension of behavior and cognition. With paradigm shifts in the practice of medicine, gravitating towards preventative and personalized medicine, this initiative allows neurologists and neuroscientists to evolve in their practice of care.

Co-ordination of the BRAIN Initiative at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) happens across ten NIH Institutes and Centers, with regular meetings to integrate strategic planning, management and support. Multi-council working groups ensure a coordinated and focused effort across NIH and amongst other Federal agencies. At the most recent meeting of the BRAIN multi-council working group on March 4, 2015, the proposed agenda included a discussion of BRAIN research supported by NIH, neuroethics, and presentations of BRAIN-related activities from the federal agencies involved.

The BRAIN Initiative is to neuroscience what the Human Genome Project was to genomics; this analogy has been stated often and sets a high bar, which the Initiative has continuously aimed to surpass. At its inception, this was announced as a $100 million grant. In 2014, the administration announced the growth of the BRAIN Initiative to include five participating federal agencies: the NIH, National Science Foundation (NSF), Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Intelligence Advanced Research Progress Activity (IARPA). Members of the National Photonics Initiative, together with companies such as GE, Google, GlaxoSmithKline and Inscopix announced plans to leverage over $30 million in support of the BRAIN Initiative. Other agencies such as patient advocacy organizations, universities (e.g. University of Pittsburgh), and the Simons Foundation proposed a contribution of $240 million towards research efforts.

The FY2014 BRAIN investments at NIH included the first wave of BRAIN awards wherein $46 million was invested in 58 projects encompassing more than 100 investigators in 15 states and 3 countries. Data sharing and integration across projects was emphasized. The grants focused on transformative technologies and included amongst others classification of the myriad of cell types in the brain and creation of next generation human brain imaging technology to monitor circuit activity. In 2015, $65 million in funding was secured from the aforementioned five federal agencies. Five new funding announcements were announced, as also were two new opportunities, through the small business program on research.

In spite of the above, there is need for additional funding. Neuroscientists themselves insist that BRAIN be funded; Thomas Inel, director of NIMH had said in 2014, that his institute might be willing to redirect funds from other neuroscience projects so as to support BRAIN. In recent weeks, the BRAIN initiative was amongst the important agenda items discussed by members of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) at the recent “Neurology on the Hill” event earlier this month. Inching forward towards its goal, President Obama’s FY2016 budget proposes increasing federal funding from about $200 million in FY2015 to more than $300 million in FY2016, for BRAIN. On March 3rd 2015, 156 members of the AAN met and urged members of the Congress to sign a letter of support for the BRAIN initiative at NIH, authored by Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA). The AAN members met with staff in 226 congressional offices and 80 members of the House and Senate. This highlights the interest and need for the continuous dedicated funding that is required to support the BRAIN initiative. A strong advocate for the initiative, former Indianapolis Colts player Ben Utecht spoke about his personal experience with traumatic brain injury and how increasing awareness through education is very important to change the standards of care.

The gradual evolution of the Initiative has been guided by analysis of the scientific and tool development goals from preceding years, together with incorporation of new goals towards the larger BRAIN 2025 objectives. The long term scientific vision of the NIH BRAIN initiative focuses on circuits and networks, calling for $4.5 billion in brain research funding over the next 12 years. Interim recommendations included ramping up support to $400 million per year by FY2018 and plateauing at $500 million per year by FY2021. Seven areas of research have been identified, all aiming to collectively map brain circuits and measure fluctuating patterns of electrical and chemical activity within those circuits, so as to elucidate the understanding of cognition and behavior.

The United States is not alone in prioritizing ‘brain health’. China had launched a similar, Brainnetome project. The European analogue, the Human Brain Project was launched with an ambitious 1.5 billion euros of funding over ten years, aiming to improve digital technologies, working together with neuroscientists. Often described as the Apollo program for neuroscience, BRAIN has steadily taken steps. However, is the inception of such programs enough? The need for a larger consensus in what the neuroscientists deem important together with a tangible improvement in health care are vital for the success of such an initiative. The recent discontent at the management of the Human Brain Project in Europe has called for a disbanding of the three member executive committee. This discontent stemmed from concerns about removing cognitive neuroscience as a priority from the initiative. Such trends highlight the need for a dynamic, continuous evaluation of such a vision and the need to be more inclusive. The step ladder, phased out approach towards funding, seems to have set the right trend but increased funding to meet goals remains a challenge and has not been without criticism. John Horgan had discussed the militarization of brain science and questioned the role of the Pentagon in funding the BRAIN. On the other extreme, Cori Bargmann, a co-chair of the advisory committee, provided economic rationale for the project stating, “To use numbers, the entire cost of the space program to put a man on the moon added up to about one six pack of beer for every person in America living at the time. And the entire cost of the Brain Initiative proposed here adds up, inflation corrected, to about one six pack of beer for each American over the entire 12 years of the program”. I don’t drink beer. But I feel the dilemma of rationalizing the ‘expense’ or ‘investment’. Depending on whether or not you can relate to a personal story of neurological disease, your opinion may vary, but the argument cannot be ignored. The proposed increase for funding FY2016 presents itself as a litmus test that, if successful, will validate the trajectory of the project and provide impetus for accelerated growth.

Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, stroke – each is a devastating reality, with patient advocacy organizations and highly specialized neuroscientists, painstakingly looking for answers and therapies to improve, treat and someday cure these conditions. Is the larger vision of wire diagrams and maps of activity in the brain the correct end point? With a project such as this, can there be a clear end point? The brain–machine interface might be too far-fetched and futuristic. Nonetheless, in shifting from a disease-specific goal to a broader vision of understanding the circuitry of the brain, BRAIN encourages dialogue across disciplines and helps scientists overcome one of the largest obstacles of being highly specialized with a very unique skill set – ‘compartmentalization’. And yet, it cannot be understated that the possibility of a  breakthrough therapeutic option would be much more of an advertisement for the initiative, than a brain activity map. Areas of research that are not outlined as being of paramount importance are likely to be left behind, causing researchers in some areas to feel insecure and limited in the pursuit of science. The relatively myopic view of the Initiative is thought by many to be its biggest shortcoming.

“To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear” Buddha. Roman poet Juvenal (Satire X 10.356-64) wrote “orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano,” meaning “you should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body”. So is a healthy mind as important or perhaps more important for a healthy qualitative life? Neurological disease is feared. Movement, perception and memory are equally important in ensuring we can lead healthy productive lives. However, is the global obsession to understand the brain justified? Neurological health is undoubtedly important, relevant and an increasing economic and physical burden. With a brain activity map, would we know the seat of the mind by 2025? Perhaps, perhaps not. It is, however, a good time to be a neuroscientist.

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March 11, 2015 at 9:00 am

Science Policy Around the Web – April 24, 2014

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By: Jennifer Plank

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Vermont Will Require Labeling of Genetically Altered Foods – Vermont has recently established the strictest guidelines regarding genetically modified foods. Beginning July 1, 2016, all foods containing genetically modified ingredients must be labeled as such, which could affect up to 80 percent of foods on the shelves of grocery stores. Due to the small number of individuals living in Vermont, it is possible that some suppliers of genetically modified foods will cease selling to grocery stores in the state. While the ruling is currently limited to food sales in Vermont, the precedent set could impact legislation in other states or at the federal level. (Stephanie Strom)

NIH Policy Change Allows Unlimited Resubmissions of Grant Applications – Last week, the NIH revised the policy regarding number of resubmissions for R01 grants. Previously, once a grant was submitted (A0), it could be revised and resubmitted one time (A1). After that submission, if the grant was not funded, another submission of the same research was not allowed. Under the new guidelines, a grant can still only technically be resubmitted one time, however, the same grant can be submitted as a new A0, which means that any grant can essentially be resubmitted an unlimited number of times. Whether this policy change will have a positive benefit on research and the funding climate is yet to be seen. (Chris Pickett)

FDA Warns Against Protocol To Remove Uterine Fibroids – Last week, the FDA issued a statement encouraging doctors to stop a surgical procedure to remove uterine growths; such removal may inadvertently spread cancer throughout the body. The procedure, known as power morcellation, is used to remove uterine growths during laparoscopic surgeries. Although the FDA urges doctors to cease using the procedure, they do not intend to ban any of the devices required to perform the operation. (Brady Dennis)

 

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April 24, 2014 at 3:40 pm

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Science Policy Around the Web – April 18, 2014

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By: Bethanie Morrison

photo credit: lindsay-fox via photopin cc

photo credit: lindsay-fox via photopin cc

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws -An article written by four of the top scientist-administrators in the U.S. (Bruce Alberts, Marc Kirschner, Shirley Tilghman and Harold Varmus) addressing the flawed biomedical research enterprise was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS). While reminiscent of the Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group report from 2012 and the 1998 report from the National Academies on the future of the biomedical workforce, the thesis of this article is that the American biomedical research atmosphere has become “hypercompetitive,” thereby reducing scientific productivity and harming the careers of promising scientists. The authors suggest that there is an overproduction of Ph.D-level scientists at a time when Ph.D-level jobs are somewhat scarce. They propose the system gradually reduce the number of Ph.D students and alter the ratio of trainees to staff scientists in research labs. Furthermore, the authors strongly urge members of Congress to understand that the research funding and progress as it is right now are unsustainable, and that they must figure out a more stable way to fund biomedical research. (Bethanie Morrison)

Injuries from e-cigarettes increase amid rising popularity – E-cigarettes, battery-powered cartridges that are filled with liquid nicotine that causes an inhalable vapor when heated, have been reported to cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems as well as burns and nicotine toxicity. A recent report from the CDC showed an increased number of calls to poison control centers regarding e-cigarette problems. Companies manufacturing e-cigarettes in the U.S. such as Logic Technology and Lorillard, Inc. cite e-cigarettes made in China as the main problem. China’s regulations on product development and manufacturing are nowhere near as strict as those enforced by the U.S. FDA, allowing China to sell poorly and inconsistently-made products for less money all over the world, particularly via the internet. The FDA is slated to discuss how to regulate e-cigarettes and other “vaping” devices for the first time in the near future, which may potentially reshape the industry. (Reuters)

Political rifts slow U.S. effort on climate laws – A report released this week by the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that the United States and China need to enact major climate change policies in the next six years in order to stave off the most harmful impacts of global warming. While the United Nations has made climate change a policy priority, U.S. polls have shown that although the majority of Americans (Republican and Democrat) accept that climate change is real, they do not hold it as a high priority come voting season, thus making it a lesser issue for members of Congress. One of the UN policy suggestions made was to impart a tax on carbon pollution. Given the political stances on taxation in Congress, Republicans signing declarations never to raise taxes and Democrats insisting on taxing large corporations, a grand bargain is likely the only way forward. Fortunately, lawmakers from both parties have pushed tax reform such that incorporating a new carbon tax may be paired with a cut in corporate or income taxes. This should help to decrease carbon emissions as such to avoid a catastrophic global atmospheric temperature increase of 3.6°F by 2050, while giving big business the money they need to develop new energy solutions and keep people employed. (Coral Davenport, New York Times)

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April 18, 2014 at 11:18 am

How Biomedical Research Benefits Society and the Impact of the Ryan Budget

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By: Jennifer Plank

Credit: Jennifer Plank

Credit: Jennifer Plank

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest medical research agency in the United States. Historically, funding for the NIH has received bipartisan support, which was clearly illustrated by the efforts of the 105th Congress in 1997. Senate Republicans proposed that the NIH budget be doubled by the year 2003. This initiative received bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, resulting in a budget increase from $15.6 billion to $27.2 billion1. Additionally, a bipartisan letter authored by House members Susan Davis (D-CA), David McKinley (R-WV), Andre Carson (D-IN), and Peter King (R-NY) requesting $32 billion (representing an inflation adjustment and a 1% increase) for the NIH in FY2015 was signed by 24 Republican and many Democrat Representatives. However, bipartisan support does not always translate to actual budget appropriations. For the decade following “the doubling,” the NIH budget remained relatively flat, and when adjusted for inflation, the spending power of the NIH has dramatically decreased2. Unfortunately, 22 of the 24 Republicans, including Peter King, co-author of the letter requesting an NIH budget increase, voted for Representative Paul Ryan’s budget, which would cut the NIH budget by 1/3 by FY20243.

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April 11, 2014 at 5:30 pm

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