Senate FY 2015 NIBIB and NIH Appropriations Bill

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Publication date: 
31 July 2014

The Senate Appropriations Committee has released a draft version of the report accompanying the FY 2015 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill.  This bill provides funding to the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health.

The bill was approved by the subcommittee on June 10.  The appropriations process is stalled and it is unknown when the full committee will consider the bill.  House appropriators have not moved their version of the legislation. 

Page 111 of the draft subcommittee report has no explanatory language regarding the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, which is in contrast to sometimes lengthy passages for other NIH institutes.  The report recommends includes the following:

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering:
The FY 2014 appropriation was $325.9 million
The FY 2015 request is $328.5 million, an increase of $2.6 million or 0.8 percent
The Senate bill provides $332.7 million, an increase of $6.8 million or 2.1 percent above current funding

Under the bill:

National Institutes of Health:
The FY 2014 appropriation was $29,853.5 million
The FY 2015 request is $30,134.3 million, an increase of $280.8 million or 0.9 percent
The Senate bill provides $30,459.2 million, an increase of $605.7 million or 2.0 percent above current funding

There is very extensive committee report language regarding the National Institutes of Health.  Selections follow:

“Overall, non-defense discretionary spending, adjusted for inflation, has been on a downward trend since fiscal year 2010. Without adjusting for inflation, the total budget authority subject to discretionary spending caps in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill has decreased by $6.8 billion since 2010. Going forward, in fiscal year 2016 non-defense discretionary spending is scheduled to reach its lowest level as a share of the economy since this data was collected in 1962. As the cost to provide critical services and conduct life-changing research increases even just with inflation, the pressure on programs at the Federal, State, and local level to do more with less has been building even in programs that have been level-funded.

“For example, if the appropriation for NIH had kept up with biomedical inflation over the last decade, NIH’s appropriation would have totaled $37,000,000,000 in 2013, instead of the $28,900,000,000 that was actually appropriated. This loss of $8,100,000,000 billion is not an example of neglect by this bill or this Committee. NIH received annual increases approximately equal to the total increase provided to this bill, as well as a substantial appropriation in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in fiscal year 2009. While receiving annual increases and experiencing none of the cuts in discretionary spending (other than the fiscal year 2013 across the board sequester), NIH still lost 28 percent of its purchasing power. Due to the impact of inflation, restraining growth in the discretionary spending caps is tantamount to a cut.”  [An illustrative chart appears on page 9 of the report.]

Later in the report:

“Although economic success is not the mission of NIH, the life science research supported by NIH contributes to the economy of every State in the Nation.  Approximately 83 percent of NIH’s budget is awarded through nearly 60,000 research and research training grants to more than 2,500 research institutions, small businesses, and scientists. Discoveries from NIH-funded research are a cornerstone for the U.S. biomedical industry, contributing $69,000,000,000 to our Nation’s GDP and supporting 7 million jobs in 2011.

“Taxpayers overwhelmingly support NIH’s work in every poll done on what Americans expect from their Government. Yet budget pressures have kept NIH funding stagnant, below the levels necessary just to keep pace with inflation over the last decade, and those budget pressures ultimately resulted in the $1,550,000,000 sequester cut to NIH in fiscal year 2013.

“The Committee provides $30,459,181,000 for NIH activities within the jurisdiction of this bill, including $808,200,000 in transfers available under section 241 of the PHS Act. The budget request is $30,134,304,000 including $8,200,000 in transfers. When combined with the fiscal year 2014 increase of $1,000,000,000, this bill fully replaces the sequester cut to NIH. Given that the non-defense discretionary cap increases by only 0.1 percent in fiscal year 2015, this increase required difficult decisions and unfortunate choices in other areas of this bill.”

“Despite the considerable importance of replacing sequester cuts, the Committee regrets that the current budget caps are not sufficient to allow a consistent growth pattern for the Nation’s biomedical research enterprise.”

Under a section entitled Office of the Director (page 115) the report states:

Blue Ribbon Commission on Scientific Standing. - In the 1960s, Jonas Salk’s discovery of the polio vaccine inspired a generation of young people to aspire to pursue careers in research and hold scientists in high regard. Recent reports suggest that students in America today are experiencing a sense of disillusionment with science resulting in an exodus of math and science students from pursuing research careers. High profile headlines around nutrition, exercise, and other behavioral sciences suggest that Americans are quick to react to initial findings, but become jaded by the nuance and complexity that often follows from additional study. Finally, moral and economic dilemmas often color American’s absorption and utilization of research outcomes. However, science and technology are bedrocks of the modern world. The Committee believes that basic scientific literacy is critical to responsible contemporary citizenship. For those reasons, the Committee recommendation includes $1,000,000 for a contract with the National Academy of Sciences to establish a Blue Ribbon Commission charged with discerning American public opinion on, understanding of, and faith in scientific research. The Commission shall examine the present state of scientific repute in America and present recommendations for how to improve scientific literacy and enhance scientific regard amongst the American public.”

Basic Research. - The Committee urges the Director to maintain NIH’s current focus on the funding of basic biomedical research.  Basic biomedical research seeks fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems, and is an important investment in the future health, wealth, and international competitiveness of our Nation and plays a critical role in the Nation’s economy.  The Committee understands that it is the purpose of basic research to discover the nature and mechanics of disease and identify potential therapeutic avenues likely to lead to the prevention and treatment of human disease. Without this early scientific investigation, future development of treatments and cures would be impossible.  The Committee believes that basic biomedical research must remain a key component of both the intramural and extramural research portfolio at the NIH.”

Reproducibility of Scientific Research. - The gold standard of good science is the ability of a lab to reproduce a method and produce the same finding. The Committee is deeply concerned with reports that some published NIH research cannot be easily reproduced.  While this does not necessarily negate findings, the lack of clear reproducibility undermines scientific credibility and progress. The Committee compliments NIH on convening workshops and soliciting expert opinion on how to address this problem. The Committee encourages NIH to consider implementing best practices to facilitate the conduct of reproducible research. In particular, NIH should evaluate methods to encourage transparency in the reporting of methods and findings that would assist other scientists to replicate, validate, and extend previous research.”

“Science Education.—The Science Education Partnership Awards [SEPA] fosters important connections between biomedical researchers and K–12 teachers and their students. These connections establish an education pipeline to careers in biomedical sciences, which is one of the most important areas of workforce development for the U.S. economy in the 21st century. Therefore, NIH is directed to continue funding the SEPA program at no less than last year’s level.”