It was just a little under a year ago, in the May 2017 issue of DDNews, when I wrote a column titled “Put your money where your science is” wherein I talked about the pending government shutdown at the time and how ill-advised White House plans were to cut the budget of the National Institutes of Health by 19 percent. Instead, we thankfully ended up with the U.S. Congress upping the NIH budget by about $2 billion to $34.1 billion.
I thought perhaps that episode would put an end to the notion that we can afford to have a less-well-funded NIH, but instead we got something that felt very much like a repeat this year. Except that this time, the White House thought a 27-percent cut for the NIH was one of the good ideas to float. Thankfully, the administration backed off that idea in February and—when all was said and done in March—President Donald Trump signed off on a spending bill that included a $3-billion increase in funding to the NIH, bringing its fiscal 2018 budget to $37.1 billion.
This isn’t the first time—and likely won’t be the last—I’ve said that the NIH (and the National Science Foundation and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to name a couple others) is an agency that we can’t afford to trim. In fact, years of flat-funding for such agencies was bad enough.
There’s much talk of keeping the United States on center stage in global affairs, whether economically or otherwise. Whether you’re on the globalism or protectionism end of the spectrum, I would like to think that you know we aren’t going to be there if our science isn’t strong. Nothing against industries like coal mining, but I want to see the money go to growing and powerful areas rather than declining ones that have been losing relevancy for decades.
In a fast-changing and ever-changing world, science—and the life sciences in particular, with so many diseases and lifestyle health issues to deal with—is one of the key arenas in which we need to excel and to invest.