Yesterday, AADR sent a letter to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee voicing our opposition to the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R. 4186). This legislation proposes policy changes and authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation. Many members of the scientific community, including the National Science Board, voiced opposition to the bill because it would, “…impose constraints that would compromise NSF’s ability to fulfill its statutory purpose. Some elements of the bill would also impose significant new burdens on scientists that would not be offset by gains to the nation.” Specifically, this legislation also proposes to make changes to merit review process and includes language about public access policies. AADR is concerned about the FIRST Act for the following reasons:
- The authorizing levels fail to keep pace with inflation;
- Significantly cuts the authorizing level for social sciences and humanities research by 22%; and
- Proposes new requirements for the grant making process.
Sam Stein from the Huffington Post wrote an article entitled, “The Next Frontier in the War Over Science,” which describes the concerning components of the legislation.
Despite our efforts and those of the broader scientific community, late yesterday evening the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology approved the FIRST Act (H.R. 4186) by a vote along party lines. Any amendments that sought to strike the problematic sections related to the grant making process were not approved by the committee. Also, an amendment further reducing the authorization for social, behavioral and economics research by $50 million was approved by a vote of 20-15.
The bill is now headed to the floor of the House. At this time it is unclear when it will be considered by the full House of Representatives. As this legislation moves forward, AADR will continue to work with the scientific community to ensure preservation of the merit review process and robust authorizing levels for the National Science Foundation.
Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the allocations known as 302(b)s for the fiscal year 2015 appropriations bills. Importantly, these allocations adhere to the $1.014 trillion top line number established by the Bipartisan Budget Act. The Senate Labor Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS) Appropriation bill will receive $156.773 billion, which is level with fiscal year 2014 and $1.1 billion more than the House LHHS allocation of $155.693 billion. The Senate allocation will enable sustained funding for many public health programs, however other programs may face cuts and significant increases will not be possible this year. According to a statement released by the Coalition for Health Funding:
“The discretionary spending cap established by the Bipartisan Budget Act provided some temporary relief, but remains too low to restore funding for core government functions. Continued stagnation will cause real and irreparable hardship for millions of Americans in the long-term. The Senate’s flat 302(b) allocation in FY 2015—which remains approximately 4 percent below FY 2010 levels and nearly 12 percent below 2010, when adjusted for inflation—will require continued cuts to job training, health, and education programs that put Americans’ public health at risk and stymie medical progress, harm the economy by making it more difficult to provide more people with needed job training, reduce the quality of education for our nation’s schoolchildren, and make it more expensive to attend college.”
Unfortunately, the persistent austere budget climate continues to put a strain on discretionary spending. AADR will continue to urge Congress to undo sequestration and these austerity measures once and for all.
The Office of Management and Budget recently sent a memo to all federal agencies providing guidance for the development of their fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget requests. Specifically, this memo requires all federal agencies to reduce their budgets by 2 percent below fiscal year 2015. In addition to reducing the overall budgets by 2 percent the agencies are then requested to identify additional investments in effective programs to further support their mission. These “additional” requests should be 5 percent above the fiscal year 2015 level. It is expected that these other investments will be utilized to illustrate the funding needed to, “…restore discretionary spending to levels needed to grow our economy.”
The rationale for additional reductions in the President’s FY16 budget is due to the fact that the overall amount of funding available for discretionary spending established by the 2011 Budget Control Act is still extremely low. Unless Congress works together to change the current law funding for discretionary programs will be unable to grow.
AADR is pleased to announce the selection of Sarah Al-Hiyari from the University of California, Los Angeles as the 2014-15 Gert Quigley Fellow. Sarah is a third year Oral Biology Ph.D. student working with Dr. Flavia Pirih and Dr. Sotirios Tetradis. Her research focuses primarily on understanding the genetic basis of periodontitis. Sarah received her undergraduate degree in Microbiology from Texas Tech University, where she graduated magna cum laude and she has a Master’s degree in Molecular Biology. Sarah has a deep passion for educating policymakers about the value and importance of dental, oral, and craniofacial research. Moreover, Sarah states, “The AADR Gert Quigley Fellowship will allow me to educate fellow dental researchers, clinicians, and general community members about important legislative policies in dental research. To have a more effective career in research, it is critical that I understand the federal budgeting process and its impact on funding opportunities.”
The Gert Quigley Public Policy Fellowship provides a unique learning experience both in Washington, DC and through grassroots efforts at the participants local university or institution. This fellowship is designed to familiarize dental school, Ph.D., or dual degree students with the federal legislative process as it relates to basic and translational dental and craniofacial research, as well as research on the oral health care delivery system. Applications for the 2015-16 Gert Quigley Public Policy Fellowship will be available in March 2015.
On April 29, AADR submitted a statement for the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing about the importance of federal investments in driving innovation. The federal witnesses included directors from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Chairwoman Mikulski, D-Md., began the hearing by stating that investing in innovation is a matter of national importance, but she remains concerned that the U.S. is becoming so austere and as a result we are capping our long term growth. Ranking Member Shelby, R-Ala., stated he would like to prioritize funding for these programs, but in order to do so the Congress should explore ways to reduce mandatory spending.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH testified before the Committee and discussed the many advances in public health attributed to, “breakthroughs generated by NIH.” He expressed concern about the long term effects of the fiscal restraints as slowing the momentum of scientific discovery and noted the NIH grant success rate has plummeted to an all-time low. Dr. Holdren, director of OSTP made a strong case for preserving the peer review process at NSF because that process is the “gold standard” for basic and applied research.
Chairwoman Mikulski asked the federal witnesses if they would prefer, “More money, modest money or canceling sequestration.” Dr. Collins responded that continued sequestration would be absolutely devastating and according to his calculation would reduce funding for NIH by at least 10%. He stated that if we want to see American science flourish federal funding must find its way on to a stable and predictable trajectory.
To learn more click here to view the statements made by other organizations and here to view the hearing via webcast.
On April 29, AADR submitted comments on the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) funded project entitled, “Building PCOR Value and Integrity with Data Quality and Transparency Standards.” The goal of PCORI project is to create a framework of data quality standards to guide data quality assessment and presentation of results. According to the EDM Forum, “Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of these data is an important step in assessing the findings reported in clinical studies. However, there are currently no standard practices and metrics to describe data quality. As a result, the current process is ad hoc and can make it difficult for data users and data consumers to understand how good the data is for a particular purpose or finding.” AADR commended PCORI for the framework, urged them to accelerate this work and made recommendations for future consideration during the development of data quality and transparency standards.
To learn more, click here to view the proposed framework.
This week the House Commerce Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee released their version of the FY15 CJS bill which proposed $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation, a $237 million increase over the FY14 level of $7.17 billion. The proposed funding increase is greatly appreciated, especially in the continued tough environment. However, it is important to note that because of the budget caps and continued tight climate in order for the House to achieve these funding increases they must take money from other appropriations bills, including the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill, which provides funding for the National Institutes of Health. A recent article in Politico explains the nuance:
“All sides are bound by the same spending cap: almost $1.014 trillion, split roughly evenly between $521 billion for defense and $492 billion for domestic programs and foreign aid. So whenever Congress goes over the president’s numbers, that means it will have to come back and find cuts down the road.…And the reality is the extra $1 billion for commerce, law enforcement and science will have to come out of another’s bill’s hide.
Most vulnerable is the giant annual measure funding labor, health and education programs — a top priority for the president. And Appropriations
Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., has already signaled that he can find cuts there to offset increases elsewhere.”
Many Washington DC insiders speculate that the LHHS bill will be used as a “bank” to pay for increases in other appropriations legislation, meaning there will be significantly less money available in the House LHHS bill to provide the funding necessary to sustain investments in research, public health and other programs.
We will know more next week when the spending allocations for the various appropriations bills are released. AADR will remain vigilant as this process unfolds.
Last week, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) released a new set of fact sheets describing the importance of NIH funding to each state. These fact sheets include a table listing NIH funding by Congressional district, a summary of the biomedical research profile for the state and talking points about how investment in NIH research benefits the economy of the state.
AADR advocates are encouraged to utilize these documents as a tool to enhance their advocacy with members of Congress.