Advocacy Update

Interest and support for funding scientific projects is high despite budgetary challenges.

By Kelly Dunn, PhD

There are several recent and promising advancements that suggest a high potential for increases in the scientific funding of psychological sciences.

First, the NIH has implemented the Consolidated Appropriations Act that was authorized by the executive office in January 2014 and which forestalled the second round of expected cuts related to sequestration. The NIH budget from 2014 is now $1 billion greater than the 2013 fiscal year, and NIH reportedly plans to address the cuts that occurred following sequestration by funding an increased number of competing awards and increasing NRSA stipends.

However, absolute funding for NIH remains a concern for FY15. The President released his budget proposal to the senate on March 4, which will establish agency spending levels throughout September 2015. The ultimate result is no substantial increases in funding, which is an improvement over the decreases that had been experienced in recent years, but will still restrict new funding opportunities. The Presidential budget includes a one percent increase in funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), a .7 percent increase for NIH funding, a one-half of one percent in VA Medical and Prosthetic Research funding, a five and a half percent decrease in Department of Defense Spending, and a three and a half decrease in CDC funding. Funding to the new Presidential initiative, Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PICORI), would increase by 13.8 percent. This lack of new funding has been partially offset by the proposal of a new bill, the Opportunity Growth and Security Initiative, which proposes an additional $970 million to NIH that would fund up to 650 new research grants, and an additional $552 million to NSF that would fund an additional 1,000 grants. This is critical, as the NIH awarded eight percent fewer grants in FY2013 vs. FY 2012 (16.8 percent vs. 17.6 percent).

The America COMPETES act is an additional effort to boost scientific funding that was introduced on March 6 th and authorizes increases of five percent annually over a five-year period to NSF, the Department of Energy's Office of Science (DOE), and the NIST. A competing version of that act, introduced on March 10, entitled the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act (FIRST), would provide funding only through FY2014-FY201. This version would increase funding for NSF by one and a half percent per year, and for NIST by one percent per year (DOE funding will reportedly be independently addressed in a bill that has not yet been proposed).

Finally, on February 27, the CEO of AAAS (Dr. Alan Leshner), in collaboration with representatives of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and NSF, testified to Congress that neuroscientists are poised to make large advances in the understanding and treatment of brain disorders, in part related to the recent development of two large multidisciplinary collaborations (the European Commissions Human Brain Project and the US Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN)). Their testimony advocated for “substantial and dedicated funds” to be allocated to this cause, and cautioned that “other countries are investing in science at a rate far greater than ours.”