Last week United States President Donald Trump outlined a budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year that would cut more than $54 billion from U.S. non-defense discretionary programs, including nearly $6 billion (19 percent) from the National Institutes of Health. It’s hard to sum up just how destructive a measure this would be for discovery research in this country. If passed, it will have far-reaching consequences in new industry creation, employment and the long-term economic viability of the United States across sectors it currently leads in. Countries like the U.S. and Canada excel at industries like gene therapy, drug discovery, regenerative medicine, medical devices (collectively referred to as biotech), high-tech, and information technology, amongst many others, that heavily leverage our academic institutions as seeding grounds for new discoveries, and go on to build billion dollar sectors and employ millions. Federal programs like the NIH train our discoverers and fund this research.
Like others, we at The Black Hole have serious concerns about the impact such drastic cuts to the NIH would have on basic research, and the effect it will have on Canadian researchers, who enjoy strong collaborations with their American counterparts. Many Canadian investigators train in the U.S., and many Canadian institutions accept American graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, whose training grants will undoubtedly be restricted by a budget cut on this scale. American scientists and scientific organizations have therefore begun submitting statements to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies to urge increased funding for NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018.
To complicate matters, Congress must still finish a federal budget for 2017. Without a final budget for 2017 the NIH and NIH-funded researchers remain in limbo regarding their allocations for this year. Science requires stability in funding over long (five years+) time horizons to realize the promise of the advances we’re investing in, and this consistent insecurity in basic federal support significantly damages our ability to do this work.
This is not an isolated world view, and it is our responsibility to speak up, often and consistently on the value of basic research in society. We need your stories to ensure the public can hear what federal funding of the sciences supports. Please share them here.