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NIH budget cuts and the looming Ebola epidemic

As the federal government frantically works to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and as it responds to a second diagnosis of the disease at home, one of the country’s top health officials says a vaccine likely would have already been discovered were it not for budget cuts. Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said that a decade of stagnant spending has “slowed down”…

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The Next Frontier In The War On Science

The Obama administration and the scientific community at large are expressing serious alarm at a House Republican bill that they argue would dramatically undermine way research is conducted in America. Titled the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014,” the bill would put a variety of new restrictions on how funds are doled out by the National Science Foundation. The goal, per its Republican supporters on…

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Science reviews FY2015 White House budget proposal

President Barack Obama on Tuesday released a $3.901 trillion budget request to Congress, including proposals for a host of federal research agencies. The unveiling is just the beginning of the annual budget process; Congress will now chew on the proposal, and is likely to ignore many of the White House’s suggestions. Still, the budget request offers insight into the White House’s research priorities, and can play an important role in…

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Open access gets big boost from Congress

Washington, DC – Progress toward making taxpayer-funded scientific research freely accessible in a digital environment was reached today with Congressional passage of the FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.  The bill requires federal agencies under the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education portion of the Omnibus bill with research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to articles reporting on federally funded research no…

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How We’re Unintentionally Defunding NIH

In June of 1998, the U.S. Congress, with bipartisan support, committed itself to double the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget over the next five years, arguing that “biomedical research has been shown to be effective in saving lives and reducing health care expenditures.” Shortly thereafter, a trio of scientists representing the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology laid out a vision of what increased funding could achieve: it…

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Estimating the ROI of science research

U.S. R&D spending on basic research in constant 2005 dollars (top curve) Looking at the history of science over the last couple of centuries, it seems evident to me that the benefits of scientific discovery have been heavy-tailed. A typical medical advance might save many thousands of lives. The discovery of penicillin (and its publicly supported development, leading to further antibiotics) saved hundreds of millions of lives. In a single…

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Sequester looming, again

After what seemed like a brief hiatus following the first round of sequester cuts earlier this year, the news is once again filling with impending disaster for science research programs across the country as the next round of budget talks lurches toward an uncertain conclusion. For one, the sequester cuts imposed earlier this year appear all but certain to remain in effect, which will spell even more bad news for…

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Obama administration requests 2014 STEM overhaul

A proposed reshuffling of federal STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education programs in the United States would move the Department of Education (ED) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the head of the class. Their new status would be a major change for the federal government, which now spends nearly $3 billion on 226 STEM education programs run by a dozen agencies. Many of those programs were created…

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